A Malaysian court of appeals has ruled that only Muslims can use the name Allah to refer to god, even though other religions have been doing so for centuries, since the word entered the Malay language from Arabic a long time ago and is the word used for god in Malay translations of the Bible. This despite the fact that Christians in Indonesia and much of the Arab world use the word Allah with no problems (as yet).
A lower court had earlier ruled that Christians could also use the word, a ruling that sparked clashes between Christians and Muslims. The government appealed the court ruling and won the latest round. This verdict will now be appealed to the supreme court.
The government is clearly pandering to the Muslims in the country (who comprise 50.4% of the population of 28 million, the rest being made up of Chinese, Indigenous, Tamil, and others). According to this news report:
The decision coincides with heightened ethnic and religious tension in Malaysia after a polarizing May election, in which the long-ruling coalition was deserted by urban voters that included a large section of minority ethnic Chinese.
In recent months, Prime Minister Najib Razak has sought to consolidate his support among majority ethnic Malays, who are Muslim by law, and secure the backing of traditionalists ahead of a crucial ruling party assembly this month.
His new government – dominated by his Malay-based United Malays National Organization – has toughened security laws and introduced steps to boost a decades-old affirmative action policy for ethnic Malays, reversing liberal reforms aimed at appealing to a broader section of the multi-ethnic country.
One of the worst aspects of religion is how easily it can be used to rile up people to achieve short-term political goals. All you have to allege is that your god/religion is being disrespected and there will be enough benighted people who will rise up to ‘defend its honor’, causing death and general mayhem.