Keeping the faith, or, “What?”


Now just … just … I mean … what?

The Malaysian government has reversed a decision to ban a Christian newspaper using the word Allah to refer to God.

The government had threatened to refuse to give the Weekly Herald a publishing permit if it continued to use the word.

The paper’s editor said the word had long been used by Christians to refer to God in the Malay language.

The ruling was immediately condemned by civil rights and Christian groups in Malaysia, who said it infringed their right to practice their religion.

But Malaysia’s internal security department demanded the word be removed, saying only Muslims could use it.

I mean … er … hang on ….

What?

Now the government has back-tracked.

In a fax to the Herald’s editor, the government says it will get its 2008 permit, with no conditions attached.

Father Andrew Lawrence told the BBC he was delighted, saying prayers had been answered.

He blamed politics and a general election expected here in 2008 year for what he said were the actions of a few over-zealous ministers in the Muslim-dominated Malay government.

Religious issues are highly sensitive in Malaysia, which has a 60% Muslim population.

Religious freedom is guaranteed in the law but minority groups have accused the Muslim Malay majority of trying to increase the role of Islam in the country.

Okay, in the first place, I’m sorry: that’s the whole damn article.

But … what?

Let me see if I have this straight. In a country that is 60% Muslim, at a time when minority groups are accusing Muslims of trying to increase Islamic clout in the government, a Christian newspaper is threatened with closure because it uses the word “Allah”?

Okay, okay … even the short BBC News article gives us a glimpse at the deeper issues, such as Malay Christians who use the name, and grandstanding during an election year, and whatever. But still ….

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