(A priest and altar boys walk down the aisle after prayers were conducted during a mass service inside the church of Our Lady of Lourdes at Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said )

The Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church seems like a model for the multicultural, tolerant Malaysia that its government likes to present to the outside world.

An ethnic Chinese priest conducts the service in the Malay language to a congregation made up of migrants from the country’s eastern Borneo island states along with a handful of Vietnamese immigrants.

But it takes only a few minutes for the worshippers to utter the Malay and Arabic word for God that has become a festering source of contention in the Muslim-majority country, deepening ethnic divisions and tarnishing its moderate image.

“We believe in Allah, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,” the 300 or so faithful chant.