By God, the Herald will continue to use “Allah”

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

Catholic newspaper The Herald will mark the return of its Bahasa Malaysia edition with a bumper issue next Jan 18 and defy the authorities by using "Allah" to describe God.

Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said today it will use the word "Allah" as its suit on the word is still in the courts while the bumper issue is to make up for lost time. Government officials said the newspaper can have a Bahasa Malaysia edition as long as it does not describe God as "Allah" which is reserved only for Muslims.

"We will continue using it as the case is still going on in court," Fr Lawrence told The Malaysian Insider today, adding the Kuala Lumpur High Court had allowed The Herald to continue using the disputed word pending its judgment in the case.

He explained that the Catholic Church had been using the word in the manner prescribed because it was contained in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Scriptures, which had been approved by the church's authorities "a long time ago".

"I can't change the Scriptures. If the word 'Allah' is in there, we will use it," he said.

"The government cannot tell us we cannot use it if it is in the Scriptures. This is against the Federal Constitution," he added.

The Herald's insistence is almost certain to shake the already fragile religious ties in Malaysia.

But Fr Lawrence begs to differ.

"We are not terrorists. We are not enemies. We're all brothers and sisters who worship God," he said soothingly, adding he did not know why the word is controversial.

The government had banned the weekly from putting out stories in the national language after its publishing permit expired on Dec 31 last year.

The reason, allegedly, was that the Malay news content which used the word "Allah" to describe God in a non-Muslim context would confuse followers of Islam in Malaysia.

A few days later, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur who is the publisher of The Herald, wrote a letter asking the Home Ministry to lift the ban.

He warned that the Church would take legal action against the government if it did not reply

Today, the Associated Press reported the Home Ministry had lifted the ban, but refused to allow The Herald to use the word "Allah".