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Malaysia's God problem erupts, tarnishing moderate image

Published on Jan 20, 2014 6:33 AM

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - The Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church seems like a model for the multicultural, tolerant Malaysia that its government likes to present to the outside world.

An ethnic Chinese priest conducts the service in the Malay language to a congregation made up of migrants from the country's eastern Borneo island states along with a handful of Vietnamese immigrants.

But it takes only a few minutes for the worshippers to utter the Malay and Arabic word for God that has become a festering source of contention in the Muslim-majority country, deepening ethnic divisions and tarnishing its moderate image.

"We believe in Allah, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth," the 300 or so faithful chant.

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