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Johari is urged to approve the permit for Herald weekly paper published by the Catholic Church


Press Statement
by Teresa Kok Suh Sim


(Kuala Lumpur, Monday): I am appalled with the decision of Ministry of Internal Security for forbidding the Herald, a weekly tabloid of the Catholic Church. The Catholic tabloid is read widely by Christians both here in Peninsular Malaysia and in Sabah and Sarawak. With the aggressive enforcement of the National Language policy since the 1970s almost the entire population of Malaysia (both East and West) is now conversant with Bahasa Malaysia, students and their parents. By forbidding the publication of the Bahasa Malaysia section of the Weekly Herald the Deputy Minister Internal Security Johari Baharom is depriving the Christians of Malaysia their basic right to be educated, informed and formed in their faith. This is a violation of human rights and ultra-vires the Malaysian Constitution.


The Deputy Minister of Internal Security Johari Baharom uses the lame excuse that the term “Allah”  can only be used by Muslims. Since when did that term become the sole exclusive possession of Muslims? Johari fails to understand that the word "Allah" doesn't belong to Muslims only. It is not their monopoly.


The Arabic word for "God" is "al-Lah", and it can be translated as "the god" and was used in pre-Islamic times. In pre-Islamic times, in the polytheistic religion of Mecca, there was a god that was called by this name. Al-Lah was probably considered as the highest god, but not an acting power, and therefore rarely focused on in rituals. While Islam rejects the other deities ‘al-Lah’ is described as the one eternal, omnipotent god. "Allah" is therefore not a proper name, and it is even now used by Arab Christians as is found in their Arabic Bible.


Furthermore, followers of the Sikh faith also use the term “Allah” to refer to God ever since the founding of their faith more than 500 hundred years ago. This word appears repeatedly in their Holy Book.


I am amused with the reason given by the Deputy Minister of Internal Security Johari Baharom that the term can only be used by Muslims.  He apparently failed to explain the reason for imposing a ban on the publication of the Malay section in the Weekly Herald.  He needs to be informed that the word ‘Allah’ is also the word for God in the Iban and Kadazan languages. It is their right, together with others, to use their mother tongue to practice their respective religions, regardless of whether it is Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, or Sikhism etc.


The Christians in East Malaysia worship God and understand the Christian faith in the Malay language. Since Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of the country and the government has been propagating the Malay language to be used widely in all spheres, then on what basis is the Bahasa Malaysia section being prohibited from being published. Why the double standard?


If it isn’t sensitive in Arab countries and Indonesia where the majority are Muslims, why should it be so sensitive here in Malaysia under the pretext that “it will confuse people”. If Muslims can be “confused” so easily by other religions using the “term” then would it not be the responsibility of the Muslim ummah (parents, teachers, imams and ustazs) to clear the “confusion” by proper education. Doesn’t education clear confusions of all kinds in all fields? Isn’t that the function of teachers, preachers, tutors, lecturers etc. in classrooms and places of worship?


I urge the Minister of Internal Security and the Prime Minister to review this unkindly decision out of respect for all Christian Malaysians who read and worship in Bahasa Malaysia and revoke the ban on the publication of the Bahasa Malaysia Section of the Weekly Herald. This would be the Government’s finest Christmas gift to Christians and others who use the word “Allah” in their worship, prayers and rituals.


*Teresa Kok Suh Sim, DAP Publicity Secretary & MP for Seputeh

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