Malaysia’s Ministry of the Interior has flip-flopped on granting permission to a Catholic newspaper to use the word "Allah" in reference to God in its publications, as long as they specified the material was not for Muslims.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar attributed the original decision to lift the ban, contained in a government gazette dated Feb 16, to a 'mistake'. The government bowed to threats from Islamic groups, who warned that even conditional use of "Allah" would stoke Muslim fury.
Syed Hamid said the ban on the use of the word would remain in force until a pending court case decided on the matter.
A senior ministry official confirmed Syed Hamid's comments, saying there were "interpretation mistakes" in the Feb. 16 decree that led to the confusion.
"'Allah' cannot be used for other religions except Islam because it might confuse Muslims. This is the ministry's stand and it hasn't changed," the official, who declined to be named citing protocol, told The Associated Press.
At the center of the controversy is the Catholic weekly, The Herald, the country’s only Catholic publication. Several months ago, the Home Affairs Ministry revoked the weekly’s publication license for using the term, which the Ministry had said was only permitted for Muslim use.
The Herald, the Roman Catholic Church's main newspaper in the country, had filed a legal suit to challenge the government ban on non-Muslims using the word and argued that the Arabic word is a common reference for God that predates Islam and has been used for centuries as a translation in Malay.
According to Father Lawrence. Andrew, the director of the Herald, "in the local Malaysian language, there is no other term besides Allah to refer to God."
The Herald has stated that it will continue with the court case which it started to allow it to print the word "Allah."
AFP, Malaysia to reinstate 'Allah' ban for Catholic paper: report, 2 March 2009,http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gW7bkiBxTe1zSkaEtCBzP...
Catholic News Agency (CNA), Malaysian authorities bow to Muslim pressure over ‘Allah’ in Catholic weekly, 3 March 2009,http://catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=15259
The Straits Times, KL's two U-turns, 2 March 2009, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_344...