Friday, December 21, 2007

Johari: Only Muslims can use 'Allah'

Johari: Only Muslims can use 'Allah'
Soon Li Tsin | Dec 21, 07 5:31pm

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

Asked why a new condition will be imposed on Catholic weekly newspaper Herald when its annual publishing permit is next renewed, the deputy minister said this is to prevent confusion.

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

“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.”

The Herald, the organ of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, had been facing problems in renewing its publishing permit allegedly because of the word ‘Allah’ was used in referring to ‘God’ in its Bahasa Malaysia section.

The ministry has also allegedly told the publisher to remove the entire Bahasa Malaysia section or the permit will not be renewed when it expires in two weeks.

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

Johari noted that other publications, such as Buddhist magazines, do not use the word ‘Allah’ when referring to God.

“The Herald can use other words but not ‘Allah’. That will confuse people,” he claimed.

Basis of decision

He said the decision was made based on a report submitted by the publications department of the ministry.

“Previously no one knew (about this). I made the decision based on a report submitted to me that was prepared by an officer,” he explained.

However, when asked why the Herald is being told to remove its Bahasa Malaysia section altogether - rather than demanding the weekly not to use the word ‘Allah’ - Johari was unable to comment.

“I’m not sure about this, I have to check again. As far as I know, they used the word ‘Allah’ and we cannot allow that,” he reiterated.

He further pointed out that the word ‘Allah’ cannot be printed on T-shirts or other garments and those who have done so have been warned by his ministry.

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.

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