Two lawyers who faced off against Malaysia’s government last month so that non-Muslims in the country could use the word “Allah” had their office broken into Wednesday morning in the latest backlash following a high court’s recent ruling.
Though the scene following the break-in resembled that of a robbery, one of the lawyers said it was most likely that the room was made to appear that way.
“This is a staged robbery,” Derek Fernandez told reporters while waiting for the authorities.
According to the lawyer, some documents appeared missing and a laptop belonging to one of the firm’s three partners was also taken.
“I think they believe my laptop contained information on the church case,” said the owner of the laptop, who declined to give her name.
“It does but not the main part,” the lawyer added, according to The Herald newspaper, which filed a lawsuit over two years ago over Malaysia’s ban on the word “Allah.”
Last month, a Malaysian Supreme Court declared that the word “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam and that the government’s Home Ministry is “not empowered” to ban non-Muslims from using the word.
After the landmark ruling, Muslim activists were quick to mobilize, including the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students, which urged the government to take the case to the Appeals Court, arguing that Christian missionaries using the word Allah could trick Muslims into leaving their faith.
Some even managed to hack into the website of The Herald, the Roman Catholic Church’s weekly Malaysian publication.
And since Friday, at least nine churches have been targeted by arsonists and vandals despite the government’s decision last week to appeal the Supreme Court ruling.
In the latest attack, the Church of St. Elizabeth in southern Johor state was splashed with red paint before dawn. Another church, Malacca Baptist Church, had been splashed with black paint the week before. The other six churches, meanwhile, were hit by a number of firebombs, with one sustaining significant damage.
According to the CIA World Factbook, 60.4 percent of Malaysia's 25.7 million people ascribe to Islam. Around 19.2 percent, meanwhile, is Buddhist, and 9.1 percent is Christian.
In general, Muslims enjoy special privileges in Malaysia as Islam is the dominant religion.
Since last week’s attacks, government and Muslim leaders have emphasized that acts of violence such as those witnessed Friday and the days afterward were not representative of Islam.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who condemned the attacks, said the government would "take whatever steps it can to prevent such acts."
In an effort to repair ties, a number Muslim NGOs have offered to work to help protect churches from further attacks.
Since Monday, volunteers from the NGOs have been patrolling church areas in at least two regions in Malaysia.
Local reports claim that some 130 NGOs have committed to be the “eyes and ears” of the government to face any threat to Christian churches.
Muslim leaders also joined Christian services this past Sunday in a show of unity and peace. The government plans to hold a series of dialogues between religious leaders.