To Arms! To Arms!

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A Malaysian magazine has apologized for upsetting Christians after it published an article researched by two Muslims who pretended to be Roman Catholics and took Holy Communion in a church.

The apology aims to ease tensions with religious minorities who feel that overzealous government authorities and clerics are trying too hard to champion the interests of Islam and ignoring the rights of non-Muslims.

The Al Islam monthly magazine, which focuses on issues affecting Malaysian Muslims, acknowledged in a statement on its publisher’s Web site last week that the article had “unintentionally hurt the feelings of Christians, especially Catholics.”

The article, published in May last year, was meant to investigate rumors that Muslim teenagers were being converted in churches. The article said its two reporters had found no evidence supporting those claims.

The apology came after Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who heads the Catholic Church in peninsular Malaysia, criticized government authorities earlier this week for not prosecuting the two magazine researchers. Pakiam, however, said that church leaders would be satisfied if the magazine issued a formal apology.

The men had spat out the Eucharist and took a photograph of a partially bitten one. Communion is a sacrament for baptized Catholics in good-standing. The church teaches that the Eucharist is transformed into the body of Christ by the priest during Mass.

Does everybody remember the Jyllands-Posten incident where a dozen cartoons incited commercial boycotts, death threats, and calls to the UN for sanctions? I’d like to believe that the gross disparity both in the nature of the crime and in the intensity of the response are a product of the ethos of love that undergirds Christianity.

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