Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the new Johari directive banning the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims?

Lim: PM's X'mas speech good but...
Khairil Zhafri | Dec 26, 07 7:00pm

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang praised Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for giving an “excellent Christmas message” yesterday but expressed bitter disappointment that the prime minister has again failed to put words into action.

In his message, Abdullah warned Malaysians to be on their guards against religious extremists who are bent on tearing the country apart.

Abdullah also stressed that the majority moderate Malaysians need to hang on to the "middle position" and never allow such extremists to rule the day.

However, Lim said the prime minister's message was a “great Christmas letdown” because he has failed to touch on the Herald controversy – the Catholic weekly organ which is facing a ban for using ‘Allah’ in referring to God in its Bahasa Malaysia section.

According to the veteran opposition leader, he had expected Abdullah to end the Herald controversy when he spoke at the Christmas gathering hosted by Christian Federation of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“Abdullah did not assure Malaysians that he will not allow the middle ground to be intruded and encroached by extremists,” he said in a press statement today.

Lim agreed with Abdullah that Malaysians must put the country’s interest before what the prime minister described as “narrowly-defined demands”.

But Lim argued that Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum's decision to disallow Herald's Bahasa Malaysia section was itself an instance of “narrow-mindedness and intolerance”.

“Abdullah owes Malaysians an explanation whether he was privy to Johari’s decision or he only knew about it when there was a public furore and protest,” Lim added.

He argued that Abdullah must be prepared to act against extremists “whether or not they hail from religious groups, political parties or from the bureaucracy”.

Should state anthems be changed?

According to Lim, the word 'Allah' had been used by the Arabic-speaking Christians even before Islam existed and that it is still used in the same context in the Middle East.

He also pointed out that several state anthems such as those of Johor, Kedah, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Kelantan and Terengganu contained the word 'Allah'.

“Does this mean that these anthems will have to be amended to conform to the new Johari directive banning the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims?” he asked.

The controversy over the use of 'Allah' came to light when the Catholic Church encountered problems in renewing the publishing permit for its bulletin, Herald.

Johari said last week that only Muslims can use the word 'Allah' because otherwise it will lead to confusion among Malaysians.

The Herald - which is published in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, English and Tamil - is said to face a new condition for its licence to be renewed.

The ministry, which is headed by Abdullah, has told the publisher to remove the entire Bahasa Malaysia section altogether or a new licence will not issued.

The weekly, whose permit will expire next week, have previously received written warnings from the ministry on the matter.

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