Malaysia’s Ministry of the Interior has flip-flopped on granting permission to a Catholic newspaper to use the word "Allah" in reference to God in its publications. Although news reports indicated that the publication would be allowed to use "Allah," government officials are denying that permission was ever given.
The national Bernama news agency is reporting that Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar has retracted a Feb. 16 decree allowing Christian publications to use the word as long as they specified the material was not for Muslims.
The government bowed to threats from Islamic groups, who harshly criticized the government for granting permission and warned that even conditional use of "Allah" would stoke Muslim fury.
At the center of the controversy is the Catholic weekly, The Herald, the country’s only Catholic publication. Several months ago, the Home Affairs Ministry revoked the weekly’s publication license for using the term, which the Ministry had said was only permitted for Muslim use.
Father Lawrence Andrew, the director of the Herald, told the Associated Press that, "Unfortunately the apparent relief that we imagined we were able to enjoy has been short-lived."
According to Fr. Andrew, "in the local Malaysian language, there is no other term besides Allah to refer to God."