Fernandez and Selvarajah's office representing Catholic Herald sealed off by police. (Photo: Chua Sue-Ann)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Catholic Church said Thursday the offices of its lawyers have been burgled and ransacked, in the latest of a spate of attacks triggered by a row over the use of the word “Allah.”

In the past week nine churches have been fire-bombed or vandalised, escalating tensions in the multicultural nation where the Muslim Malay majority lives alongside ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

The conflict broke out after the High Court decided on December 31 to lift a government ban on non-Muslims using “Allah” as a translation for “God.”

“Our lawyer’s offices were broken into and burgled sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning and the office was ransacked,” said Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic “Herald” newspaper.

“We believe the break-in is linked to the ongoing situation over the use of the word ‘Allah’ and we are very concerned,” he told AFP.

“The law firm does not have any money or many valuables so we believe this is purely aimed at intimidation.”

The church’s lawyer Derek Fernandez said a laptop was stolen in the attack on his firm’s offices in Kuala Lumpur’s southwest, and he was investigating whether any documents had been taken.

“This was a very professional job as there were very strong grilles protecting the office that were cut and the locks carefully replaced after the break-in,” he told AFP.

District police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed confirmed the break-in and said his officers were probing the incident.

The High Court ruling in favour of the Herald, which argued for the right to use “Allah” in its Malay-language section, was suspended last week pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict.

Since then, churches have been hit with Molotov cocktails, splashed with black paint and had windows smashed with stones, triggering tighter security at places of worship nationwide.

About nine percent of Malaysia’s 28 million people are Christians, including 850,000 Catholics. More than half of Malaysia’s Catholics are from indigenous groups, mostly from Borneo, and who mostly speak the national language Malay. — AFP