Malaysian Catholic weekly has to await verdict on use of ‘Allah’

January 1st, 2009 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 1 (IANS) Malaysian authorities have cleared a Catholic weekly’s publication but have stipulated that it must await a court verdict on the use of the word “Allah” on its masthead before it can resume printing.The weekly, Herald, must say it is meant for Christians only and must be distributed only in churches. It should also not publish in the official language Bahasa Malaysia, the Home Ministry said while approving its annual printing permit.

The ministry’s Publications and Quranic Text Control unit deputy secretary Abdul Razak Abdul Latif said the unit would be monitoring Herald closely to ensure that these conditions were followed.

“The minute they break any of these conditions, we will lodge a report with the enforcement unit which will then take action against the weekly’s publisher,” he told the New Straits Times Tuesday.

The weekly was banned for using the word “Allah” on the masthead and went to court last year.

Asked about the need for the Herald to continue publishing in Bahasa Malaysia, editor of the paper Father Lawrence Andrew said Christian Malaysians wanted the version.

“This is a language that the government has promoted to us as our national language, and one that most of us grew up with,” he said, adding that his office received the approval letter through fax at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Latif said it was unfair to claim that the ministry was deliberately giving the Herald a hard time, including waiting till the last minute to approve its printing permit.

Under the latest permit, he said there should be no problems for the 32-page weekly, currently published in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil, to touch on issues beyond religion, as the ministry had approved its application for covering religion, current affairs and international affairs.

“We have nothing personal against the publication. It was all a big misunderstanding,” Latif said.

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