Herald Sues Government For Prohibiting Use Of Word 'Allah'

Catholic weekly "Herald" has filed a suit against the government for prohibiting it from using the word “Allah” in the local publication.

Herald’s publisher, in a statement today, said the Internal Security Ministry had issued a series of directives for the publication to cease the use of the word "Allah", failing which the publication’s permit could either be suspended or revoked.

Under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), the Internal Security Minister has absolute powers to grant, suspend or revoke a publishing permit.

“We have the right to use the word ‘Allah’ which right now is being curtailed,” the statement said.

The statement added that the publisher wanted the courts to decide on the publisher’s legal position to use the word.

“Pursuant to this, we have filed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court a writ of summons and a statement of claim to seek appropriate directives in support of our rights,” the statement said.

Contacted later, Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Herald, said the suit was filed on Dec 5.

However, he declined to divulge more information.

Herald has a circulation of 12,000 and a readership of 50,000.

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

In a Dec 10 letter, Herald was also informed by the ministry to stop its Bahasa Malaysia segment but no reason was given for the directive.

However, Andrew said, the suit was not related to this directive.

Herald’s annual permit expires on Monday (Dec 31) and the publication has yet to receive a fresh permit, as required under the PPPA.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Johari Baharum was quoted recently as saying that to prevent confusion, the word “Allah” could only be used in the context of Islam and not any other religions.

“Only Muslims can use ‘Allah’. It’s a Muslim word, you see. It’s from the Arabic (language),” he said in a Malaysiakini interview last week (Dec 21).

“The word ‘Allah’ is published by the Catholics. It’s not right,” he was quoted as saying.

However, scholars say the word predates Islam and was used by Christians long before the birth of Islam.

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