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Friday January 4, 2008

Herald can’t use ‘Allah’ in its publications


PUTRAJAYA: The Herald - The Catholic Weekly publication is not allowed to use the word “Allah” in its publications, the Cabinet decided. 

The restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” was still enforceable and shall be upheld as decided by the Cabinet in two of its meetings – on Oct 18 and Nov 1, 2006, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdullah Mohd Zin said.  

Abdullah, who said the Prime Minister had instructed him to clarify the matter so the public would not be confused, told a press conference on Thursday:  

“One of the reasons given to uphold the restriction is because that it has long been the practice of this country that the world Allah refers to God according to the Muslim faith.”  

It was only proper for other religions to use the word "God" and not "Allah" when referring to their God in respective beliefs, Abdullah said, adding that the use of the word “Allah” shall not be made a public debate that may give the impression as if there is no freedom of religion in the country. 

“The use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims in the country,” he said. 

On Dec 31, the publication’s editor Father Lawrence Andrew said the weekly was allowed to continue printing its Bahasa Malaysia section with no restriction on the use of the word “Allah” for God. 

He said a representative from the Internal Security Ministry delivered a letter dated Dec 28 with the permit to print the newspaper and that according to him, the letter did not place any restrictions whatsoever. 

The newspaper carries reports in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and Chinese, about the Catholic community. It has a circulation of 12,000. 

The ministry had earlier issued directives to the publisher to cease the use of the word “Allah” in the weekly, failing which its permit would either be suspended or revoked. 

On Dec 5, the publisher filed a writ of summons in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to seek declarations of use of Allah. 

When contacted later, Abdullah said that the Cabinet in the two meetings had decided that Herald - The Catholic Weekly should not use the word “Allah” in its publications. 

“I would also like to remind the public that apart from the word 'Allah', three other words - Solat, Kaabah and Baitullah – are also prohibited and cannot be used in other religions’ publications,” he said.  

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