Cabinet: 'Allah' for Muslims only

The Cabinet has ruled that restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” are still enforceable and thus Catholic weekly Herald cannot use the word although its printing licence has just been renewed.

In a statement yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin said apart from the word "Allah”, the use of the words “Solat”, “Kaabah” and “Baitullah” was also prohibited in other religions' publications as per the decisions of the Cabinet on July 30, 2002, on the restriction which had been enforced since Dec 5, 1986.

The minister, whose portfolio covers religious affairs, said the restrictions were being upheld as “it has long been the practice of this country that the word ‘Allah’ refers to God according to the Muslim faith”.

“It is only proper for other religions to use the word ‘God’ and not ‘Allah’ when referring to their God in their respective beliefs.”

He said the use of the word “Allah” should not be subject of public debate such that it will give the impression there there is no religiious freedom in this country.

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

On Dec 17, Herald had received a letter from the Internal Security Ministry stating that the Bahasa Malaysia segment of the weekly was to be abolished, with effect from the renewed permit for 2008.

However, it had been given the green light to publish the weekly in a Dec 28 letter. Herald's editor Father Lawrence Andrew was quoted in news reports as saying that the letter placed no restrictions.

Other than the English segment, Herald also has sections in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil to cater to the multi-racial and multi-lingual make-up of more than 850,000 Malaysian Catholics.

Even before the permit issue came up, Herald had filed a suit on Dec 5 against the government for prohibiting it from using the word "Allah".

Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) also known as the Evangelical Church of Borneo, has also filed for a judicial review against the internal security minister’s decision to stop it from importing Christian books which contain the word "Allah".

It is also seeking a declaration that Christians have the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in all their religious publications and practices, and not just within the church.

SIB was prevented from importing children’s books that contained the word "Allah" and was informed by the ministry that the use of the words "Allah", "Baitullah", "Solat" and "Kaabah" was exclusive to Islam, through the order published in the Gazette PU (A) 15/82 and the circular KKDN. S.59/3/6/A dated Dec 5, 1986.

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