Thursday, January 8, 2009

Herald gets nod for Malay language but not "Allah"

The BN federal government will allow the Malay edition of a Catholic newspaper to resume publication, lifting a ban imposed for its use of the word "Allah," an official said today.

The Herald, the country's main Roman Catholic newspaper, will not be allowed to use "Allah" as a translation for "God," however, said Che Din Yusoh, a senior official with the Home Ministry's publications control unit.

"If they stop printing the word 'Allah,' they can publish anytime," Che Din told The Associated Press. "You can use another word. It's permissible for us," he said, adding that the decision would be conveyed to the Herald by tomorrow.

The ministry had ordered the Herald last week to stop printing its Malay edition for violating a 2007 ban on the use of the word "Allah," except to refer to the Muslim God. The government says using the word could confuse Muslims, even though the newspaper is read almost exclusively by Christians.

Malay language is widely spoken by many indigenous Christian believers in Sabah and Sarawak states, who read the Herald's Malay edition regularly. The newspaper has continued to publish its English, Mandarin and Tamil editions.

The Herald has challenged the ban on "Allah" in court, saying that the translation has been used for centuries and that the Arabic word is a common reference to God that predates Islam. It says the ban is unconstitutional and threatens the religious freedom of the minorities in this nation.

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