Catholic paper in 'Allah' row gets new permit
Reports from Malaysiakini on Nov 15, 09 1:37pm
MCPXThe Herald will be allowed to continue publication after the government withdrew a controversial decision to cancel its publishing permit, the editor said today.
The Herald said earlier this week the government had told it that its permit for next year had not been approved. Under Malaysian law, all publications must renew their permit every year.
The move came amid a long-running dispute over the weekly's use of the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language section. The government argued "Allah" should be used only by Muslims, who dominate the country's population.
The Herald's editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, said government officials in a meeting Friday said the paper's permit would be approved, but rejected its request to publish a supplement in a language used by indigenous group on Borneo island.
"They have asked us to ignore the September letter which says the permit is not approved and stick to an earlier letter in August stating a new licence will be given, there is no more confusion," he told AFP.
"On our application to publish an additional page in the Kadazandusun language, we are sad it has been rejected. We will put the plan on hold and won't be using the language for the time being," he said.
It was a miscommunication
A home ministry official confirmed The Herald was allowed to continue publishing, and attributed the controversy to "miscommunication".
"We are processing their permit renewal. We never disapproved their application, (the September letter) was due to miscommunication but it has all been solved now," said the official, who requested anonymity.
"We only rejected their application to publish in the Kadazandusun language," he added.
The Herald, circulated among the country's 850,000 Catholics, nearly lost its publishing licence last year for using the word "Allah". The paper is printed in four languages, with a circulation of 14,000 copies a week.
The row is among a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between Muslims and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being "Islamised".
Religion and language are sensitive issues in multiracial Malaysia, which experienced deadly race riots in 1969.