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Religious tensions rise after bomb attack on Malaysia church

Religious tensions are on the rise in Malaysia after two home-made bombs were hurled at a church in the northern state of Penang.

KUALA LUMPUR: Religious tensions are on the rise in Malaysia after two home-made bombs were hurled at a church in the northern state of Penang.

The pre-dawn attack came after provocative banners were hung outside three churches on the island.

Politicians from both sides have condemned the attack and urged for calm as police begin investigations.

While investigations are underway in Penang, the police are asking all sides not to jump to any conclusion.

They have obtained copies of CCTV footage near the church and are closely scrutinising them before releasing any further statement.

According to preliminary reports, two petrol bombs were hurled shortly after midnight into the church compound by a motorcyclist.

One missed, and the other hit the ground and exploded, causing minimal damage.

The police are investigating the incident under the Sedition act -- in particular, the desecration of places of worship with the aim of stirring religious tensions -- which is a serious offence in Malaysia.

And they have promised tough action against the perpetrators.

The attack is believed to be related to provocative banners bearing the word "Allah" or God, that were hung outside three churches in Penang just a day ago.

The banners angered some Muslim NGOs as well as the Penang branch of the ruling party UMNO.

All this comes as tensions remain high over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

The minister in charge of national reconciliation is calling for a time-out to let cooler heads prevail.

Joseph Kurup, minister in the prime minister's department, said: "The most important thing for us to do right now is to ease tensions. The less we talk the better, so we can solve the issue peacefully."

Meanwhile, the opposition pact led by Anwar Ibrahim has pledged to steer clear of religious and racially sensitive issues.

Mr Anwar said he is prepared to work with Prime Minister Najib Razak's government towards restoring racial and religious harmony.

Many community leaders are also urging the government to address other issues close to their hearts, which may be fuelling tensions.

Sanggat Singh from Pure Life said: ''There are other things which are stirring up people. That is, the subsidies, the cost of living... Everything is going up, so people, they are shifting their anger to some other ways.''

The leaders hope the government will act firmly and fairly against those responsible for fanning racial hatred and put a tight lid on escalating tensions in the country. 

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