Govt regrets Herald’s defiance on use of word ‘Allah’

(The Sun) The government has expressed regret that Catholic weekly Herald has defied the government’s ban on the use of word “Allah” as a translation for “God” in its publication.

While calling for a stop on public debates regarding the matter, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said he will ask the ministry’s legal division to see “what can be done” against the newspaper.

“Usually, we will study what happens when there is no compliance. Religious issues are very sensitive. That’s why I avoid debating about it. But if one religion decides to show its strength and all sort of things, it is a bit dangerous.

"To me, it is best (that) we sort it out in an environment which is not confrontational – an environment of goodwill and understanding. That’s why we have taken this approach. "We did not take action, (but) we gave conditions so that they would not create problems,” he told a press conference after the ministry’s monthly assembly today.

Syed Hamid said the newspaper should have waited for the court’s decision, scheduled Feb 27, instead of acting according to its own judgment and defying the Cabinet’s decision to lift the ban imposed on the Malay edition of  Herald.

Ministry’s Publication and Quranic Text Control division secretary Che Din Yusoh was reported saying on Jan 8 the government has lifted the ban but maintained its decision to stop it from using the word Allah as it would confuse the Muslims.

The Herald  has last year challenged the ban on the word “Allah” in court, saying the translation has been used for centuries and the Arabic word is a common reference to God that predates Islam.

On Tuesday, Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said this week’s edition has used the banned word and he intended to continue doing so until the courts rule on the issue next month as “we find the restriction unacceptable.”

“They should have waited for the court’s decision. If they continue acting this way, they are inciting conflicts. In Malaysia, we have to avoid conflicts. Don’t think we are the only ones that are strong, that have rights.

“If everyone wanted to show its own strength, there would be conflicts and it would create problems. We have been really flexible in this matter. We really respect others and their religions,” Syed Hamid added.

On certain weblogs still allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad and Islam in their postings, he said the police had conducted its investigations on the matter and it was now up to the Attorney-General (A-G)'s Chambers to act.

"Any reports said to insult the Prophet will be investigated by the police. Once investigation has been completed under the Sedition Act, we will leave it to the A-G's Chambers to decide whether to take action or not.

Syed Hamid said to date no arrests had been made and that it was very difficult to stop people from posting undesirable elements in cyberworld..

On another matter, Syed Hamid said retrenchment exercises by certain companies in the country should start first with the foreigners as during this time of economic crisis, "there is no reason for us, legally or illegally, to bring in foreign workers".

"Don’t request for foreign workers and give all sorts of excuses that Malaysians cannot work. We will discuss with the Human Resources Ministry so that in certain sectors like the manufacturing and services industries, we should not have foreign workers," he said in response to newspaper reports on Tuesday that retrenchment of foreign workers had resulted in a rise in criminal activities in the country.