Monday, March 2, 2009 5:31 AM

Malaysia to restore 'Allah' ban for Christians 
Eileen Ng ,  The Associated Press ,  Kuala Lumpur   |  Sun, 03/01/2009 9:49 AM  
|  World 

The Malaysian government will issue a new decree restoring a ban on Christian 
publications using the word "Allah" to refer to God, officials said Sunday. 
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said a Feb. 16 decree that let Christian 
publications use the word, as long as they specified the material was not for 
Muslims, was a mistake, the national Bernama news agency reported. 

The about-turn came after Islamic groups slammed the government and warned that 
even conditional use of the word by Christians would anger Muslims in the 
largely Muslim-populated country. 

A senior ministry official confirmed Syed Hamid's comments, saying 
"interpretation mistakes" in the Feb. 1 decree had led to the confusion. 

" 'Allah' cannot be used for other religions except Islam because it might 
confuse Muslims. This is the ministry's stand and it hasn't changed," the 
official told the Associated Press, but declined to be named citing protocol. 

The dispute has become symbolic of inceasing religious tensions in Malaysia, 
where 60 percent of its 27 million people are Muslim Malays. A third of the 
population is ethnic Chinese and Indian, many of whom are Christian. 

Malaysia's minorities have often complained their constitutional right to 
practice their religions freely has come under threat from the government, 
which is dominated by Malay Muslims. They cite destruction of Hindu temples and 
conversion disputes as examples. The government has denied any discrimination. 

The Herald, the Roman Catholic newspaper in the country, had filed a legal suit 
to challenge the government's ban of the word. 

The Herald said in its brief the Arabic word is a common term for God which 
predates Islam. The word carried over directly into Malay, and for centuries it 
has been the common term for God in that language. 

Representatives from The Herald could not be reached for comment Sunday. 

Kirim email ke