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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 December 2007, 12:27 GMT
Malaysia reverses Allah paper ban
By Robin Brant
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Muslims take part in Friday prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur
Religious freedom is guaranteed under Malaysian law
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.

'Over-zealous ministers'

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.



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