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Malaysia Bans Catholic Paper for Use of ‘Allah’

ICC Note:

“It curtails our freedom of expression and diminishes our rights as citizens . We are perplexed and we do not think that the prohibition is on solid legal ground.”

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1/2/09 Malaysia (ChristianPost) The Malaysian government has put a stop to a Catholic newspaper over the use of the word “Allah” in its Malay-language edition, the paper’s editor reported Thursday.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry reportedly sent a letter saying the newspaper is only allowed to operate its English, Mandarin and Tamil editions. The Herald usually has four editions, including Malay.

“The prohibition amounts to persecution,” Andrew told The Associated Press. “It curtails our freedom of expression and diminishes our rights as citizens . We are perplexed and we do not think that the prohibition is on solid legal ground.”

Last year, the newspaper had nearly lost its publishing license for using the word “Allah” as the translation for “God.” Authorities had contended the word “Allah” should only be used by Muslims.

“The constitution says Malay is the national language so why can’t we use the national language in Malaysia,” the paper’s editor told Agence France-Presse.

He noted that many Catholics in Malaysia are “bumiputera” or “son of the soil,” which refers to ethnic Muslim Malays and the indigenous inhabitants in peninsular Malaysia and on Borneo Island who are mostly Christians.

To ban the use of the Malay word for “God” does not make sense because a large portion of Catholics in the country are bumiputera who mainly speak Malay, Andrew argued.

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