It’s our word and you can’t use it

Last week a Malaysian court ruled that people who aren’t Muslims can’t call their god “Allah” because that name is just for Muslims.

The appeals court said the term Allah must be exclusive to Islam or it could cause public disorder.

People of all faiths use the word Allah in Malay to refer to their Gods.

Christians argue they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights.

No because they stole the word. From Arabic. It’s not theirs and they can’t have it.

Upholding the appeal on Monday, chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali said: “The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”

The Herald editor Reverend Lawrence Andrew said he was “disappointed and dismayed”, and would appeal against the decision.

“It is a retrograde step in the development of law in relation to the fundamental liberty of religious minorities,” he said.

Plus it’s a frank admission that their god is a purely local god, not a universal one. That seems like shooting themselves in the foot, but whatevs.


  1. Scott says

    They must have pretty low expectations of their own population if they expect them to get confused over such a thing.

    Ha! This seems a perfect time to link to Tim Minchin’s glorious song. Not exactly the same context, but close enough.

  2. Anthony K says

    The Malaysian court must have heard and co-opted the arguments against Atheism+. Sacred words must not be adulterated.

  3. Acolyte of Sagan says

    So why don’t the Christians just counter-sue to ban Muslims from calling Allah ‘God’? There is no God but Allah would have to become There is no Allah but Allah. Eye for an eye, and all that.

    Actually, this reminds me of an incident from too many years ago. A couple of my brothers had a raging argument because one wanted to call his new pet mouse ‘Flash’ but the other already had a goldfish of that name.

  4. Shatterface says

    They’ll be claiming you can’t call a pineapple ‘Mohammad’ next.

    This is like that US judge who said parents couldn’t call their kid ‘Messiah’ because there is only one Messiah, the sweet baby Jesus.

    ‘Faith’ is all about intellectual property rights these days: blasphemy laws are there to protect the brand image.

    Religion is taking on the business model of The Walt Disney Company.

    True fact: Mohammad’s ears look the same from every direction – just like Mickey Mouse.

  5. Jenora Feuer says

    I don’t know, for me this sort of thing more brings to mind ‘My God is Bigger Than Your God’ as done by Spitting Image. Might be just a generational thing.

    Then again, Spitting Image’s treatment of Thatcher used some pretty misogynistic/transphobic imagery at times, so they were far from perfect.

  6. says

    And you can’t call your god “Mickey Mouse” either because Disney will send lawyers after you. I had no idea “Allah(tm)” was still under mo’s original trademark.

  7. sqlrob says

    Shatterface @5:

    ‘Faith’ is all about intellectual property rights these days: blasphemy laws are there to protect the brand image.

    Religion is taking on the business model of The Walt Disney Company.

    These days? That’s all it’s ever been about.

  8. Claire Ramsey says

    so how much non-Muslim use of “Allah” (allah allah allah allah), exactly, would it take to cause “public disorder”?

  9. grumpyoldfart says

    Slowly but surely, bit by bit, the untermensch lose their rights. I wonder where it will all end up?

  10. Omar Puhleez says

    I have not checked, and someone please correct me if I am wrong, but Al Lah (‘Allah’) translates as ‘the One’. Or as ‘the one’ if you don’t go in for reverential capitalisation.

    So a number has been patented, trademarked and copyrighted in Malaysia. Mathematicians could find themselves in trouble. How does one talk about the square root of minus lah without risking prosecution? Say ‘the square root of minus lah’ at normal conversation speed and it comes out as ‘the square root of minus [you know what]’.

    Still, look on the bright side. People will be able to find work as euphemism generators and elision consultants.

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    Omar Puhleez @ # 11 – According to all I’ve heard, and a quick dictionary check, “Al-Lah” means “the god” (sorta like El Dio in Spanish).

    I wanna move to Kuala Lumpur and open a dessert shop specializing in Pie Allah Mode.

    But I probably won’t.

  12. Katherine Woo says

    The thing is the Malays have a shocking record of racist and religious violence in both Malaysia and Indonesia, but almost no one in the West has any awareness. The main victims have been Chinese or Christian Malays, but Melanesians and other non-Malay indigenous groups have fared poorly as well.

  13. says

    This argument from Muslims never made any sense to me. (Not that any of the apologetic arguments are convincing, but this is in a special category of *where on Earth did you get that from*, seriously.) Because it makes them seem like they think they own the Arabic language.

  14. moarscienceplz says

    This seems to me no different from the Tea Baggers Tea Party claiming that only they know how to interpret the Constitution.

  15. latsot says

    People keep on coming up with such brilliant examples of the sheer astonishing waste of time, effort, creativity and opportunity that religion represents. And even more people keep failing to notice that they could be doing something better.

    It’s worse than choosing to be ignorant. It’s worse than dedicating your life to training others to choose to be ignorant. It doesn’t even seem like it’s necessary or helpful in training people to choose to be ignorant. This is a pure by-product of mistaken ways of thinking that has taken on a life of its own for no discernible reason. I can almost see the potential for innovation and improvement being sucked out of the world when I read about things like this.

    My cat spends her time more productively than this. And – in a rare moment of serendipity – she is currently licking her arse.

  16. left0ver1under says

    Anyone else getting visions of Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the jehovah/rock throwing scene?

    Or how about, “Ny-allah-thotep”, aka “He who must not be named” from HP Lovecraft’s C’thulhu stories? It did first appear in Egypt, after all.

    It’s “their word” and they want to keep it? Fine, just as long as they keep it to themselves and out of public view.

  17. miraxpath says

    # Katherine Woo

    It is worse than that, Katherine. Very few western liberals care what is happening in our neck of the woods. I am from Singapore btw. Apart from the blog-owner, Ophelia ( who has been criticised for her islamophobia by some commenters) very, very few give a damn. They dont care that the Msian authorities chose initially to act against indigenous christian minorities by confiscating Iban bibles. That orang asli churches are being torn down. Let’s not talk about hindu and buddhist temples being demolished while huge mosques are being built at taxpayers’ expense. The irony being that a lot of these tax payers are kaffirs.

    They will also not care that the bloody fucking Sultan of Brunei has just announced that the country is going to impose full scale sharia law. Stoning for adulterers. Yeah! Authentic brown people doing authentic religion. What is there to criticise?

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