The Home Ministry of Malaysia has banned the use of the word “Allah” in a children’s comic book, continuing disputes over non-Muslims’ ability to use the word. An issue of the children’s comic book Ultraman referring to the super hero as “respected as Allah or elder” by other heroes, contains “elements that may threaten public order,” the Malaysian Home Ministry said in a March 7 statement. “If the matter isn’t curbed, it could damage Muslim’s children faith by equating Allah with Ultraman,” the Home Ministry continued. The government stated that the series itself is not banned, but the Malay-language issue that uses the world was prohibited, with a maximum jail sentence of three years for anyone caught distributing the book. The ban comes amid a continuing dispute in the Malaysian legal system over non-Muslim’s right to use “Allah” to refer to God. “Allah” is the Malay language equivalent of the English word “god,” and is a loanword from Arabic. Malay is the official language of the country, and Malaysians of all religions use the word; not just Muslims. The term “Allah” is used around the world by Arab Christians, and has been included in the Malaysian version of the Bible for 400 years. Muslims comprise about 60 percent of the Malaysian 30-million-person population, while Christians comprise slightly under 10 percent of the population. While the Malaysian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Islam is the established religion. In October 2013, a Malaysian Court ruled against a Catholic newspaper for using “Allah” to refer to God, saying that the term belonged specifically to Muslims, and use by Christians may tempt some Muslims to convert to Christianity. The court's verdict “violates the right to religious freedom and freedom of expression enshrined in the (Malaysian) constitution,” said Fr. Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, the newspaper which the suit regarded. “It is a retrograde step in the development of law in relation to the fundamental liberty of religious minorities,” he added.
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