.- The government of the predominantly Muslim country of Malaysia has accused The Herald, a Christian weekly newspaper, of violating publication rules by running articles considered political and insulting to Islam.
The Malaysian Home Ministry sent a letter to the Heraldâs publisher warning that its June editions had âcommitted offensesâ by highlighting the countryâs politics instead of discussing the Christian issues for which it has been licensed. The letter charged the Herald with carrying an article that it said âcould threaten public peace and national securityâ because it allegedly âdenigrated Islamic teachings,â the Associated Press reports.
Like all media outlets in the country The Herald, which is the Catholic Churchâs main publication in Malaysia, is required to obtain government licenses which must be renewed annually.
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, denied the allegations.
âWe comment on issues. The Pope comments on issues,â he told the Associated Press, saying it is normal for the newspaper to have an âethical interpretationâ of current events and politics.
âI don't think we were in any way going against the type of content we have chosen,â he continued.
Father Andrew said one of the articles in question, titled âAmerica and Jihad: Where do they stand?â was an analysis of circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and had not mocked Islam.
The Home Ministryâs letter warned it âwould not hesitate to take sterner actionâ if the Herald repeats its alleged offenses. One ministry official told the AP that the paper must satisfactorily explain why it ran the articles and must adhere to the rules, or the ministry will suspend its publication.
A representative from the Catholic Asian News, another Malaysian publication, said it also recently received a letter from the ministry warning about its coverage of political issues.
For the past year the Herald has been in a court dispute with the government over its use of the word âAllahâ as a Malay translation for the word âGod.â The government has argued the usage would confuse Muslims while the newspaper insists it uses the word âAllahâ as it has been used for centuries in the Malay language.