Saturday, February 28, 2009

Verboten: Christian Journal can't use the word 'Allah' in Malaysia

An example of the enlightened human rights policy of Malaysia.

Malaysian govt rescinds Catholic paper's use of "Allah"
Posted: 01 March 2009 1117 hrs

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's government has rescinded a Catholic newspaper's right to use the word "Allah" just weeks after it gazetted a law allowing the paper to do so, according to reports Sunday.

On Friday, the editor of the Herald newspaper, Father Lawrence Andrew, said the weekly had been allowed to use the word as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language edition, as long as it printed "For Christians" on the cover.

The permission had been granted after a long battle with the government which threatened to close it down.

However, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told the New Straits Times newspaper Sunday a "mistake" had been made, although he did not specify what it was.

"I think there was a mistake in enacting the gazette. When we make a mistake, I must admit that there is a need to look at it thoroughly," he was quoted as saying.

Syed Hamid said the ban on the use of the word would remain in force until a pending court case decided on the matter, the paper reported.

"There is a judicial review on the matter and we leave it to the court to decide," he added.

Home ministry officials could not immediately confirm the decision.

The government has argued that the word should be used only by Muslims, who dominate the population of multicultural Malaysia.

Andrew said Malaysian Christians have been using the word "Allah" for centuries in translations of the Bible, and in popular prayers.

The home minister's comments come as some conservative Islamic leaders criticised the government's decision to allow the use of the word.

"To me, it's a mistake," Malaysian Islamic Dakwah Foundation chairman Nakhaie Ahmad told the state news agency Bernama.

Andrew said Friday the Herald would continue with a court case which it started to force the government to allow it to print the word "Allah".

Around 60 per cent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Muslim Malays.

The rest of the population includes indigenous tribes as well as ethnic Chinese and Indians, variously practising Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, among others.

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