Allahu List Kabirat

Allah u Akbar? La! Allahu List Kabirat!

I used to be able to quote sections of the Koran, you see? I lived in the Middle East for a fair while as a kid and later as a young man. Islam’s a funny beast. Gone are the days when Islam was another religion and instead it’s turned into the second coming of the Red under your Bed or the Hun planning to destroy your way of life.

This means we often cast a hypercritical eye on Islam and ignore the moderates. And this in turn causes often well meaning people to say that we shouldn’t criticise Islam.

There is a balancing act. Let’s take another example.

Neo-Nazis hate Jews. We don’t like Jewish Extremism. So? The Charedi’s treatment of women as second class citizens would have me complaining about how awful it is and how blind religious adherence means that the Charedi are not willing to discuss the appropriate treatment of human beings. The Neo Nazis? Well they just hate all Jews without any rhyme or reason.

Likewise? Islam is a problem, Muslims are not. The bulk of Muslims are nice people who have jobs and names and loved ones. The problem is Islam has no criticism. In the same way that the Catholic Church burnt it’s dissidents at the stake the Islamic Fundies place fatwas on the likes of it’s critics and executes them in order to make a point.

Shut up or we kill you. It doesn’t take a lot of Muslim fundies to enforce this. A single high profile event is all it needs to strike fear into the hearts of those who would say no. We see the same principle in the pro-life movement where doctors fear murder and attacks because high profile ones have happened.

Anyone can be a terrorist, anyone can hate the west, anyone can kill for an ethos that’s warped and twisted and simply not compatible with the world.

So the moderate and progressive voice is silenced because it doesn’t want to be silenced permanently. It’s awfully brave to stand up to your government or a religion or even your movement knowing full well that a significant minority will stand against you. It is however another thing to do so knowing that doing so will make you a target.

Not many of us are willing to die for our causes. I certainly am not. Oh people say that they would “rather die than x” but frankly people say “I would rather move to Canada than deal with this President” and never really move so to take them on their conviction is rather hard.

Here is where we differ again. Islam’s fundies ARE willing to kill and die for their cause in often distressing numbers. Unlike the claims of (Let’s say) the Tea Party, the Islamic Fundies have been willing to kill random people for vaguely understood reasons simply to make a point that they will kill random people to make any damn point. Kashmir only for Muslims? Let’s attack random Hotels! Against America? Let’s blow up parts of Kenya! The ideology is fear and the thing is there is no moderate break on Islam at this point. Islam has schismed and there is no one willing to accept it. That there is a moderate Islam and a bunch of angry young men who think Afghanistan and Somalia are sensible ways to run any country.

But the thing is there are Muslims in the middle who are torn between these two ideologies. Without the vocal ideological breaks of moderates and progressives they do some rather puzzling things that take steps towards a Islamic Dark Age (Even if we already are not in one).

Malaysia was for a long time a rather multicultural city. However like any Asian Multicultural City, the racial lines of Divide and Conquer hold true. The Ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indians all vie for supremacy. Pulling against each other rather than together, means that despite the incredible progress of Malaysia there are times where people simply didn’t work together.

The majority of Malaysia is Muslim and it’s been in Malaysia’s interest to be secular in action. That is until this small piece of legislature that’s recently come through.

You see it’s impossible to run a secular or a multicultural society without criticism. Malaysia’s Majority are Muslim and there is ample criticism if you have read anything by my Malaysian Girlfriend (Hera). Malaysia has effectively banned the use of the word “Allah” (AKA the name of the Islamic god) by anyone non-Muslim.

Allah for Muslims? Seriously? If your god exists and he is all powerful then surely he can survive being called by his given name by people who don’t believe in him. Has he specifically indicated to you the “Allah for Muslimist” that he only goes by Allah to his friends? The rest of us have to call him by his full title?

This is not the dictate of a religion but the protection of “Allah” from his detractors and the utilisation of the law to make it harder to criticise Islam which makes it easier for fundies to operate since the only people who can criticise Islam in Malaysia now are Muslims and they are unlikely to want to do that or worse, not realise until it’s too late how destructive the fundamentalists can be.

There is no god to get mad about the word Allah being used by a non-believer such as myself but the anger and petty hate by people who seriously get mad when a non-believer makes sounds associated with their personal being of magic wishes.

What this means? Less questioning of Islam by those affected by the majority in Malaysia and a dangerous precedent in other parts of the world. This also means that means that Islam itself loses the ability to self criticise. This is not a moderate idea nor is it an idea of the liberal Muslim but one born out of a fundamentalist fear that somewhere out there, Islam is being criticised (and that people are having fun). This is a creeping fundamentalisation of Islam in Malaysia.

Here is the thing. If your god is indeed as powerful as you claim he is then if the biggest threat to him is just people like me saying Allah then Allah is not great at all. He’s a child who can’t take any criticism without stamping off to his room and refusing to eat his spinach.

Allahu List Kabirat. Allahu tafl sifr.


  1. David Marjanović says

    “Allah” (AKA the name of the Islamic god)

    Well, actually it just means “the god”. Etymologically it’s al-‘(i)lah(u).

    …which makes the fundies in power in Malaysia look even more ridiculous.

  2. Nick Gotts says

    And this in turn causes often well meaning people to say that we shouldn’t criticise Islam.

    Who are these people you refer to? Because I never seem to encounter them. Actual names and quotes would be helpful.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    Really? You haven’t seen all those recent postings aroud FTB about the ESU student union persecuting atheists for their Jesus and Mo shirts? Or the anti-pineapple squad in Reading? Because there was quite a bit of it around here.

    It’s true, though, that “liberals leaping to prevent Muslims from being offended by criticism” seems to be a much more common thing in England (and perhaps elsewhere in Europe) than it is in the US.

  4. dgrasett says

    Not many of us are willing to die for our causes. I certainly am not. Oh people say that they would “rather die than x” but frankly people say “I would rather move to Canada than deal with this President” and never really move so to take them on their conviction is rather hard.

    I am Canadian. Frankly, if this is their attitude, we don’t want them.

  5. Nick Gotts says


    Yes, I’ve seen that, and I agree that it’s wrong. But it is most definitely not saying “we shouldn’t criticize Islam”. Are you really unable to distinguish between criticism in general, and wearing a t-shirt that mocks religiously venerated individuals? (Which, to make myself quite clear, I absolutely agree you should be able to do.)

    “liberals leaping to prevent Muslims from being offended by criticism”

    Why the quotation marks? Who or what are you quoting here?

  6. Gareth says

    This sort of thing is more political than religious surely, the UMNO have seen the clear majority they used to command gradually eroded, so these stupid judgements get pushed through.

  7. tyros says

    It’s “Allahu laysa kabir”, I think. (Allah being masculine.) But I’m not exactly fluent.

    I didn’t realize that the Malaysian law aimed to stop non-Muslims from using the word in general; I thought it was just an attempt to stop them from using “Allah” in their religious services. This is… even more shameless than that

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