Friday, December 28, 2007

Permit without BM section likely for Herald

Permit without BM section likely for Herald
Soon Li Tsin | Dec 28, 07 2:45pm

The Catholic Church’s weekly organ, Herald, will most likely get its annual publishing permit but its Bahasa Malaysia section will have to go.

The newspaper’s editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, revealed today that the Internal Security Ministry had sent a directive to the Herald to remove its Bahasa Malaysia section and this will be effective when the new permit is issued.

The 28-page Herald, which is published in four languages - English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil - has an internal circulation of 12,000.

Lawrence also clarified that the suit - filed by the Herald on Dec 5 in the Kuala Lumpur High Court - is to seek a declaration on the use of ‘Allah’ in Bahasa Malaysia, and this is not directly related to the weekly’s problems with its publishing permit.

The Herald has been told by the Internal Security Ministry - which is in charge of issuing publishing permits - that it cannot use the word ‘Allah’ when referring to ‘God’ in Bahasa Malaysia.

In a statement yesterday, the Herald said it would leave to the court to determine the suitability of using the word ‘Allah’ in Bahasa Malaysia.

It was reported earlier that the weekly had been told to remove its entire Bahasa Malaysia section or the permit will not be renewed when it expires next week.

However, Lawrence said the permit is likely to be given but it will include a clause stating that the BM section be removed completely from the tabloid-size weekly.

The Catholic Church is currently negotiating with the ministry over the directive.

BM needed to communicate with East M’sians

Asked what the Herald will do if negotiations fail and the permit will come without the BM section, Lawrence hinted that they would abide to the directive.

However he said the church would find other ways to provide news in Bahasa Malaysia to its congregation.

“We can still use BM in our in-house magazines and set up a BM bulletin (which does not require a publishing permit). It’s not a problem,” he explained.

Lawrence said the weekly carries four pages of Catholic news in Bahasa Malaysia to cater to East Malaysians who don’t speak Tamil, Mandarin and English.

“How do you communicate with a Kadazandusun? BM is their language. We have to make such news available to them in their language. It’s unreasonable to deny them this.

“We worship in BM. The (BM) Bible has ‘Allah’. We have been doing this for centuries. If you look at the Kamus Dewan (official Bahasa Malaysia dictionary), it uses ‘Allah’ for God and ‘Tuhan’ for Lord,” he said.

Lawrence argued that ‘Tuhan’ is not a suitable Bahasa Malaysia word when referring to God.

Only Muslims can use ‘Allah’

Last week, Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum said the word ‘Allah’ can only be used in the context of Islam and not any other religion.

“Only Muslims can use ‘Allah’. It’s a Muslim word. It’s from (the Arabic language). We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people,” he said when contacted.

“We cannot allow this use of ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim publications, nobody except Muslims. The word ‘Allah’ is published by the Catholics. It’s not right,” he told Malaysiakini.

The use of ‘Allah’ outside of Islam has stirred controversy in Malaysia previously. Four years ago, the Bible in the Iban language was banned because it translated the word ‘God’ as Allah Taala, which resembles Islam’s name for God. The ban was, however, lifted after protests from the Christian community.

A Sabah church has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the government for banning the importation of Christian children books from Indonesia which contain the word ‘Allah’.

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