Syed Hamid warns the ‘Herald’

(NST) The Home Ministry may take legal action against the Catholic weekly, Herald, over its continued use of the word "Allah" in this week's issue.

Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar warned that the show of defiance could cause conflict and anger among other races in the country.

"We should abide by the law and the government's decision. The decision to ban the use of the word 'Allah' in its publication does not come from the ministry but from the cabinet.

"If anything happens, then don't put the blame on us. I will refer this matter to our legal unit."

The weekly's editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, was quoted by AFP as saying on Tuesday that he intended to continue doing so until the court rules on the issue next month.
"We find this restriction on the use of 'Allah' unacceptable when we have been using it as a translation for the word 'God' for centuries in Malaysia," he was quoted as saying.

The government last month ordered a ban on the Herald's Malay edition until the court makes its decision, as part of conditions for it to be allowed to continue publishing in English, Chinese and Tamil.

Andrew had also said Munshi Abdullah, the father of modern Malay literature, translated the Bible into Malay in 1852 and he also translated the word "God" as "Allah".

"So, there is strong historical proof of what has been used for centuries.

Syed Hamid said all publications must abide by the law. "Even if it (Herald) does not want to, it should wait for the court to decide.

"To me, it seems that it purposely wants to create a collision or a conflict. It should remember the rights of other races, too. We respect other religions and cultures and we expect it to do the same thing."

Syed Hamid added that if the government decided to ban the weekly later, then it should not be blamed. "I just hope it will follow the law and government's instruction."

Sensitive religious issues must be avoided at all costs, he added.

"That is why I have avoided a debate on this subject but if one religion decides to show its strength, then this is dangerous.

"To me, it is best we sort it out in an environment that is not confrontational but with full understanding.

"The Herald has all the while been aggressive in the way it responds to us and reacts to our instructions as if they could act according to their own. It should remember that we are living in a society with all sorts of people, religions and cultures."