MARLENA NIP WRITES – Imagine not being able to use a certain word because your ideals don’t match those of the ruling party. Then imagine being under investigation by your government for using said word. That’s the case for a Catholic priest in Malaysia after saying the word “Allah” at a Catholic Mass.

Last October, the Malaysian court banned the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. The king of Malaysia, Sultan Abdul Halim My’adzam, supported the vote, stating that the Islamic religion should be respected. The Sultan has little power in terms of national policy, but is well respected by the nation’s 60% Malay Muslims.

The man who actually holds political power in Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, has done next to nothing to defend the rights of the non-Muslim population. Even The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has been focused more on Islamic traditionalists, which frustrates many Malaysian citizens. Some are upset over the fact that a country such as Saudi Arabia, which is viewed as very conservative, allows all citizens to use “Allah,” whereas Malaysia has restrictions over the word.

“Allah” is not a name but is literally translated from Arabic as “the God.”  The Quran, the Islamic religious text, does not prohibit other religions from using the word. In terms of secular opinions, one government official complained that the mix of politics and religion is a touchy subject that should be avoided. Further, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, professor of political science at Universiti Sains Malaysia, commented on the issue, saying a successful system is based on a good balance of different races and religions.

Even though 60% of Malaysia’s population is Muslim, will minority groups come together in opposition against the new national policy?