.- A senior government official in Malaysia has ordered a Catholic newspaper to drop the use of the word âAllahâ in its Malay language section if it wants its publishing permit renewed, the Associated Press reports.
The Herald, published by Malaysiaâs Catholic Church, has translated the word God as âAllah.â Che Din Yusoff, a senior official at the Internal Security Ministryâs publications control unit, has said this usage is erroneous because âAllahâ refers to the Muslim God.
"Christians cannot use the word Allah. It is only applicable to Muslims. Allah is only for the Muslim god. This is a design to confuse the Muslim people," Che Din told the Associated Press.
Che Din said that the newspaper should use the general term for God, the word âTuhan.â
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, explained the newspaperâs usage of the controversial word:
"We follow the Bible. The Malay-language Bible uses Allah for God and Tuhan for Lord. In our prayers and in church during Malay mass, we use the word Allah," Father Andrew said. "This is not something new. The word Allah has been used in Malaysia for a long time. There is no confusion," he continued.
Che Din said that since Christians donât use the word âAllahâ in English-language worship, they shouldnât use it in the Malay language. In addition to âAllah,â Che Din said three other Malay words ought not be used by non-Muslims: "solat" for prayers, "kaabah" for the place of Muslim worship in Mecca and "baitula" the house of Allah.
Publishers in Malaysia are required to obtain annual permits from the government, a policy that has been criticized for infringing on the freedom of the press. Members of minority religions have also complained that they do not enjoy full freedom of religion, despite such guarantees in the nationâs constitution.
The Herald, a 13-year-old weekly, is in talks with the government to renew its permit, which expires December 31. Che Din said the publicationâs permit would only be renewed if The Herald stops using the word âAllahâ in its pages.
The Herald publishes reports in four languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. It has a circulation of 12,000.
There are more than 800,000 Catholics in Malaysia, whose overall population is 27 million.