Malaysian priest investigated in ‘Allah’ row

Police interview Catholic editor

A Malaysian priest at the centre of a row over use of the name ‘Allah’ in publications has been placed under police investigation for allegedly challenging the law against non-Muslim use of the name.
Father Lawrence Andrew SJ faced police questioning for sedition in Kuala Lumpur last week after he reportedly insisted that Catholic churches in the province of Selangor would continue to refer to Allah when speaking of God as this had been established practice for at least 100 years. The investigation was launched despite the fact that a ruling on the name Allah refers only to publications.
As editor of the Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald, Fr Andrew came to public prominence in 2008 when he appealed government moves to ban non-Muslim publications from using ‘Allah’ in place of ‘God’. A court ruled in the priest’s favour in 2009, but this was reversed after Muslim violence prompted a government legal challenge in an effort to placate demonstrators.
Speaking after his questioning, Fr Andrew said: “I explained to the police that we have been using the word Allah in the Bahasa Bible for a very long time.” He added that he had voluntarily given police extracts of a 100-year-old prayer book in which Allah is named.
The police action against Fr Andrew came just days after officers raided the offices of the Malaysian Bible Society to seize more than 300 Bibles using Allah.
Police have now handed a transcript of the Fr Andrew interview to the office of the Malaysian public prosecutor.