Non-Muslims can't say "Allah" in Malaysia

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Tue Jan 1 21:31:29 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Non-Muslims can't say "Allah" in Malaysia

Citing security concerns, the Malaysian government has banned the use  
of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.  Although the country’s  
constitution protects freedom of religion, authorities fear that if  
the significant minority of Malaysians who are Buddhist, Christian  
and Hindu continue to use “Allah” as a synonym for their own gods,  
then the 60% Muslim majority will lose focus and become confused, and  
that in turn could lead to civil unrest.

Threats to suspend the license of the weekly Catholic newspaper The  
Herald for printing the word “Allah” in its Malay-language editions  
were dropped in response to adverse international publicity over the  
government’s god-ban for nonbelievers, but the Sabah Evangelical  
Church is still suing the government for confiscating a shipment of  
Malay Christian books with the word “Allah” in them.

The Malaysian government’s position on who owns “Allah” may be shaky  
both on religious and linguistic grounds.  “Allah,” a general word  
for ‘god,’ occurs in pre-Islamic Arabic, and it was used early on to  
refer to the god of the Old and New Testament as well the god of  
Islam.  ..

read the rest on The Web of Language

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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