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 Herald’s publisher warning that its June editions had “committed offenses” by highlighting the country’s 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 “could threaten public peace and national security” because it allegedly “denigrated Islamic teachings,” the Associated Press reports.
Like all media outlets in the country The Herald, which is the Catholic Church’s 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.
“We comment on issues. The Pope comments on issues,” he told the Associated Press, saying it is normal for the newspaper to have an “ethical interpretation” of current events and politics.
“I don't think we were in any way going against the type of content we have chosen,” he continued.
Father Andrew said one of the articles in question, titled “America and Jihad: Where do they stand?” was an analysis of circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and had not mocked Islam.
The Home Ministry’s letter warned it “would not hesitate to take sterner action” 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 “Allah” as a Malay translation for the word “God.” The government has argued the usage would confuse Muslims while the newspaper insists it uses the word “Allah” as it has been used for centuries in the Malay language.