Catholic Weekly In Quandary Over Permit

The organ of the Catholic Church, Herald is facing problems in renewing its yearly publishing permit allegedly over the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the weekly’s Bahasa Malaysia section.

According to Church sources, the government is not happy with the use of the word ‘Allah’ by the weekly when referring to ‘God’ in Bahasa Malaysia.

The use of ‘Allah’ outside of Islam has previously stirred controversies in Malaysia. Four years ago, the Bible in Iban language was banned because it translated the word ‘God’ as Allah Taala, which resembles Islam’s name for God, ‘Allah’.

The ban was however lifted after protests from the Christian community.

The Herald, which is published in four languages - English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil - has a circulation of 12,000. The weekly’s permit is due to expire in two weeks.

The Herald - which publishes news and information for Catholics in Malaysia - have previously received written warnings pertaining to the content of their articles primarily those which touch on religious and political issues.

Most recently, the Herald frontpaged both the Bersih and Hindraf rally which saw tens of thousands protesters hitting the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Remove BM section

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang in a statement yesterday said the Home Ministry has imposed a new condition for the renewal of the Herald’s publication permit - that the BM section of the weekly be removed altogether.

This is confirmed by sources close to the Catholic weekly.

Lim has described Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration as one which has promoted religious polarisation the most as compared to four previous prime ministers.

Examples that the DAP veteran included are the demolition of the Sri Maha Mariaman Temple in Kampung Rimba Jaya in Shah Alam one week before Deepavali.

 “This was followed by the disrespect and insensitivity when the Umno General Assembly was held on Deepavali – imagine the protest and outrage if the MCA or MIC had held their general assemblies during the Hari Raya holidays,” he said.

In addition, during the party assembly, Umno Youth deputy chief and prime minister’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin blamed the Indian news vendors for taking a holiday during Deepavali which resulted in Abdullah’s speech as Umno president not being prominently reported by the media.

Lim also noted the incident when two Umno parliamentarians - Syed Hood Syed Edros (BN-Parit Sulong) and Mohamad Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) demanded the removal of the cross and demolition of Christian statues in mission schools.

 “The PM must take urgent measures to arrest the worsening of inter-religious relations in the country and halt the growing number of incidents of disrespect and insensitivity felt by non-Muslim Malaysian,” he added.

No need for non-Muslim affairs dept

Meanwhile, Abdullah yesterday said it was not necessary to set up a non-muslim affairs department because an effective special committee is already in place.

He said this after Indian non-governmental organisations requested the government to set up the department to handle the affairs of non-Muslims in the country.

The premier explained that the existing committee in the PM's Department comprised of Minister in the PM's Department Bernard Dompok (handling Christian matters), Works Minister S Samy Vellu (Hindu) and Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting (Buddhism).

Abdullah also said that the National Unity Department has a similar committee with a minister (Dr Maximus Ongkili) entrusted with matters pertaining to solidarity, religions and beliefs.

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