Malaysia permits Catholic paper printing but not in Malay

The newspaper used the word "Allah" to describe the Christian god, in a non-Muslim context.

Malaysia permits Catholic paper printing but not in Malay

Malaysia has renewed the printing permit of a Catholic newspaper but said it cannot publish its Malay-language section amid a dispute over its use of the word "Allah" to describe the Christian god, the paper said on Wednesday.

The "Herald -- the Catholic Weekly", which has a circulation of 14,000, received the faxed approval of the government late on Tuesday, a day before its permit was due to expire, its editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, told Reuters by telephone.

Malaysian publishers are required to apply to renew printing permits annually under the country's printing law.

"They have given us a conditional permit. They have said that we cannot print the Malay section until the court case is resolved in the High Court," he said, referring to the legal challenge the paper filed a year ago against an order banning it from using the word "Allah" as a synonym for God.

The paper was told in July that its licence was being reviewed as its use of the word Allah could inflame the Asian country's majority Muslim population.

The Herald also has English, Mandarin and Tamil language versions, but it was its Malay language version that especially irked the government.

Published since 1980, it prints in Malay to cater for tribal communities in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island, many of whom converted to Christianity long ago.

The newspaper may appeal against the conditional approval, said Father Lawrence.

"We are definitely not happy with the decision. We can't deprive those who speak Malay only of the newspaper," he said.

The Malaysian government in 2007 banned the use of the word "Allah" in a non-Muslim context.

Almost 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Malay and Muslim; while Christians -- including about 800,000 Catholics -- make up about 9.1 percent of the population.

Reuters
Last Mod: 31 Aralık 2008, 15:23
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