“Christian Newspaper Must Not Use ‘Allah’, Malaysian Court Rules”

Posted on October 14, 2013 by




Malaysia Allah Dispute



Photograph by: Vincent Thian/AP

This news story reported by, The Guardian, relays how Christians cannot use the word Allah in reference to God.

To summarize, recently, three Muslim judges have overturned the 2009 ruling for the newspaper, The Herald, a local Christian newspaper in Malaysia, to use the word. Allah was claimed as a word specific to Muslims, therefore creating community confusion according to Chief Judge Mohamed Apandi Ali. The article states that this recent ruling has stirred up religious tension between Christians and Muslims within the community. In defense, the Catholic paper argues that Allah is a term that predates Islam. The local newspaper says that Malay-speaking Christians in Malaysia’s part of Borneo Islands used it for centuries. However, on the flip side, the article states that Muslims greeted the courts decision with shouts of, “Allahu Akbar”, translating to “God is great.” As quoted in the article, “As a Muslim, defending the usage of the term Allah qualifies as jihad. It is my duty to defend it,” said Jefrizal Ahmad Jaafar, 39. The article also notes that Christians in Indonesia and much of the Arab world still use Allah without opposition. The opposition in specifically in Malaysia is said could be due to the ethnic and religious tensions that have transpired since last May’s election. Furthermore, Prime minister Najib Razack has been working with supporters of this cause in order to help further secure traditionalist views to the area. Recently, the Malay-based, United Malays National Organization has been revising liberal reform and dominating the government.

The first impression of the article was strong. The use of Christians and Allah in the same sentence was enticing. Media, specifically news stories are focused around what the public will find interesting, and most commonly, that is the discussion of the religious groups, Muslims and Christians. This stems from history the two groups have that have created societal stereotypes and biases. This idea most certainly held true in this case; the grouping of Muslims and Christians immediately drew me to the article. The title, “Christian Newspaper must not use “Allah”, Malaysian court rules” has a negative vibe geared towards Muslims right from the beginning. By banning the use of a word to a specific group, limits freedom of speech from a personal perspective, which is highly valued in America. Next to the title was the image showing Muslim demonstrators after the appeal had occurred. The group of men come across as very strong-willed, intense and supportive. This only aids in the articles depiction of Muslims attacking Christians. The reader isn’t allowed much of a chance to form a personal opinion based off of the titles wording and the image displayed.

When digging deeper into the article, it was noticed that there were many statements with strategic word choice  present in order to emphasize the articles’ standpoint. The article states that three Muslim judges made the courts decision. Yes, this is an important piece of information, but again, supports the idea that Muslims were targeting Christians. The article also shares the viewpoints of each group in the conflict. The Christians side shares their defense with historical backing, therefore creating the idea of a more logical reasoning for their side of the debate. Where as the Muslim side in the argument is quoted with defending jihad and shouting “Allahu Akbar”. Thus their argument is depicted as less logical, and more emotionally tied.

Not only was the word choice helpful in emphasizing the articles’ standpoint, but so was the use of statistics. To note, Muslims make up 60% of the 28 million people of Malaysia, where as Christians are 9% of the population. This statistic supports that the majority targeted the minority. The Muslim population was strongly supported in numbers when making this court decision, thus painting the picture that the Christian community was defenseless  in the debate.

The description offered by the article about a Christian newspaper no longer able to use the word Allah to describe God, was chosen and constructed carefully. Knowing full well that the article provided valuable insight to understanding the circumstance, however, it is important to note that the overall tone of the article is undermining Muslims to further make Christians look like the “good guys”. It would be interesting to read this same article when not written by a British National daily paper with a socialism liberal standpoint.

Critical Commentary: Alexa Peterson


“Christian newspaper must not use ‘Allah’, Malaysian court rules.” The Guardian. 14 October 2013. Web.  <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/14/allah-reserved-muslims-malaysia-court&gt;.



Posted in: Islam