A government minister says the church attacks are the work of extremists
Prosecutors in Malaysia have charged three Muslim men with firebombing a church in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, earlier this month.
They are the first suspects to appear in court in connection with a series of attacks on Christian places of worship.
The violence began when a High Court judge ruled that a Roman Catholic newspaper had the right to use the word Allah to refer to the Christian God.
Up to 11 Christian churches have been attacked in the past three weeks.
The men pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.
Fraught over faith
Malaysian police said they had arrested eight people for the first in a series of attacks that have highlighted religious and political divisions.
Five were released but three men were charged with starting a fire that partially gutted a Protestant church on 8 January, said government lawyer Anselm Charles Fernandis.
The men, who are in their 20s, face a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years if convicted of "mischief by fire" with the intention of destroying a place of worship.
The court did not immediately schedule a trial date.
Non-Malays are free to follow religions other than Islam
The attacks on churches followed a 31 December court ruling allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" for God, which the government is appealing against.
Vandalism has since spread spread to other houses of worship, including a Sikh temple and several Muslim prayer halls.
Earlier this week, bloodied pigs' heads were left in the compounds of two mosques.
Some politicians have insisted on exclusive rights for Malay Muslims, while some Muslim groups have argued that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts.
Other Muslim groups, such as the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) have said there is no bar to Christians and Jews using the word Allah.
Malays, who are required to be Muslim in Malaysia, make up a majority of the country's population alongside substantial Chinese and Indian minorities.
The Malaysian constitution gives primacy to Islam but allows the free practice of other faiths.
Under the slogan "One Malaysia", the government has made racial harmony a central policy. Its commitment to that policy is now being severely tested.
The "Allah" ban is unusual in the Muslim world.
The Arabic word is commonly used by Christians to describe God in such countries as Egypt, Syria and even nearby Indonesia, which is the world's largest Muslim nation.