The government has reversed its short-lived ban on the Herald’s Malay language supplement – but the weekly Catholic tabloid will still not be able to use the term “Allah” pending a court decision on the matter.

The decision was verbally conveyed by the Home Ministry to the Catholic Church today and a letter is expected to reach the Church tomorrow.

But three other conditions are likely to remain:

  • a ban on the use of three other terms that are also used in Islam;
  • a ban on the sale of the paper outside church premises (which is unnecessary as the paper is only sold or distributed in churches across the country); and
  • a requirement that the front page should indicate that the paper is for non-Muslims only (which is again redundant as the paper is sold only in churches, and the masthead already indicates that it is a Catholic weekly.

On 2 January, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam reportedly informed the Home Ministry in a letter that the ministry should reconsider its decision and revoke the ban within seven days, failing which which the Church would take the matter to court.

It is understood the Church was poised to take legal action to assert the right to publish in the national language – before the Ministry back-pedalled. Some 65 per cent of all Christians in Malaysia (as at the year 2000) are ‘bumiputeras’ from Sabah and Sarawak and this figure is rising.

A typical edition of the weekly paper has 32 pages, including an eight-page Malay-language pull-out, three pages in Chinese and two pages in Tamil, with the rest in English.