Catholic weekly takes government to court over use of the word "Allah"
Tomorrow is the first day in court for the lawsuit charging the federal government with violating freedom of expression and religion. The archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur is suing the authorities after the ban imposed on its newspaper against using the word "Allah". Bishop Pakiam: the law is on our side.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - The lawsuit by the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur against the government of Malaysia has been adjourned until tomorrow, April 29. The archdiocese is claiming the right to use the word "Allah" in its Catholic weekly, the Herald. Between last December and January, the case had raised serious controversy and accusations from minorities and activists against the Malaysian authorities, who are charged with violating freedom of expression and religion.
The standoff over the use of the word "Allah" is just one more chapter in the difficulties facing the majority Muslim country, where a secular constitution is accompanied by Islamic courts charged with applying sharia. On December 10, the domestic security ministry - which oversees media permissions - had prohibited the Malay-language section of the Herald from using the word "Allah" to designate the Christian God, claiming it could be used in this way only by Muslims. Fr Andrew Lawrence, the director of the newspaper, was forced to accept the restriction, but the archdiocese decided to sue the government.
The archbishop of the capital, Murphy Pakiam, maintains that the domestic security minister and the federal government are making a mistake: "I am advised by my solicitors that I have a legal right to use the word 'Allah' in the Herald, and this legal right stems from the right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution", the archbishop explains in an article for the next issue of the Herald. Archbishop Pakiam further reports that he has been under constant pressure from the government to conform to the "directives". At the same time, numerous threats have been issued, creating a climate of "apprehension". The bishop concludes by describing as "unreasonable and irrational" the justification of the ministry, according to which the use of the word "Allah" is a "security issue which is purportedly causing much confusion and which threatens and endangers peace, public order and security". Over thirteen years of publication, he adds, no article in the Herald has ever caused any incidents.
12/11/2008 MALAYSIAEvangelical Church goes to court against ban on using the word "Allah"
The Evangelical Church of Malaysia has appealed to the supreme court following the recall of some of its magazines, in which the word "Allah" was used. The domestic security minister claims that "the publications can raise confusion and controversy in Malaysian society." Already at the beginning of the year, Catholics and Evangelicals had suffered the confiscation of newspapers and magazines for the same reason.
25/02/2009 MALAYSIAMalaysian government defeated by history: Christians have used the word "Allah" for centuries
On February 27, the diocese of Kuala Lumpur is going to court against the government, which has prohibited the use of the term for reasons of safety. But the Constitution and history are on the side of the Christians. The Minister of the Interior has given permission to use the word "Allah," but only if the phrase "for Christians only" is printed on the cover.
06/02/2009 MALAYSIAIslamic media campaign against Catholic newspaper, which cannot defend itself
The Islamic media are trying to stir up trouble by accusing the newspaper of using the word "Allah" and bringing every evil upon the country. The archbishop of Kuala Lumpur is remaining silent - possibly in order to avoid provoking useless tension - and is waiting for the decision from the High Court. The Church has, in fact, taken the government to court because the ban violates religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution.
09/01/2009 MALAYSIACatholic weekly the Herald resumes publishing, but cannot use the word Allah
A contradictory statement from the interior ministry permits the publication of the weekly paper in 2009, but leaves open the possibility of revisiting the case, and therefore the risk of closure. The beginning of the affair goes back to December of 2007, with the ban on the use of the word Allah. Since then, the government has repeatedly changed its position.
09/01/2014 MALAYSIAThe 'Allah' affair: Police interrogates Fr Lawrence, turns evidence over to prosecutor
The Public Prosecutor gets transcript from the priest's police interrogation. As the editor of the Herald, the latter is under investigation for "sedition". He plans to avoid making any statement that might further fuel the controversy. However, the matter has already crossed national boundaries as a US-based imam appeals to the Malaysian government; for him, banning the use of the word 'Allah' by Christians is a "tragic mistake."