The government has withdrawn a ban on Catholic newspaper Herald that prevented it from publishing its Malay-language edition in a row over the use of the word "Allah", a home ministry official said today.
The decision was made after the Herald weekly threatened to sue the government, the home ministry's publications control unit secretary Che Din Yusof told AFP.
"We received their letter. We have reviewed the decision and we will now allow them to print the Malay version provided that they don't use the word 'Allah' until it is decided in court," he said.
"They can publish as long as they don't use the word 'Allah', just use the word 'God'."
The Herald, circulated among the country's 850,000 Catholics, nearly lost its publishing licence last year for using the word "Allah" as a translation for "God". Authorities said "Allah" should be used only by Muslims.
Last week, the newspaper was told it must stop publishing its Malay edition while the issue is resolved in the courts, as part of conditions for it to be allowed to continue printing its editions in English, Chinese and Tamil.
Not a punishment
Murphy Pakiam, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and publisher of the weekly newspaper, said the move "reeks of ill will and bad faith" and was effectively retribution over the legal battle that is due to be decided next month.
Che Din denied the government was trying to punish the Herald.
"We have long banned the word Allah (from being used in publications of other religions), it's not new," he said.
Religion and language are sensitive issues in multiracial
About 60 percent of the nation's 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims, who dominate the government.
The rest of the population includes indigenous tribes as well as ethnic Chinese and Indians - practising Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, among others.
The Herald's editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, has said that more than half