Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, the Managing Editor of Projek Dialog and a regular contributor to New Mandala reflects on what has happened in this process of denying The Herald the right to use the word Allah in its publication.
He begins by noting:
It was only in 2007 (incidentally in the build up to the 12th General Election) that national attention was brought to The Herald, the Catholic newspaper in the heat of the “Allah” controversy.
The initial question, lest we forget, was whether it could print the word in its Bahasa Malaysia section. But the issue, so overtaken by a frenzied mix of sensationalism, political manipulation and ignorance, in an already divided country, soon mutated into a climate of anti-Christian suspicions.
Copies of The Herald, we should recall, is neither sold, available, nor is it even of much demand, outside Catholic circles. But the fear that pervades common understandings of this controversy has obscured that fact. Now the case is seen as being about whether Malaysian Christians can even use the word Allah in the first place.
Ahmad Fuad Rahmat concluded his reflection with the following:
The issue has thus transcended far beyond the court case. It just might be that we have yet to see the worst of it. The “Kalimah Allah” controversy was recently described during a Friday sermon, scripted by Jakim (The Malaysian government’s Islamic Department) no less, as a “perjuangan suci” (“holy war”). Millions of children were among the audience that day.