Malaysia bans comic for 'Allah' use
Malaysia has banned an Ultraman comic book because it uses the word "Allah" to describe the Japanese action hero.
The Home Ministry said today that the Malay-edition of Ultraman, The Ultra Power contained elements that can undermine public security and society's morals.
It said "Ultraman is idolised by many children" and equating the lead character, Ultraman King, with Allah would especially "confuse Muslim children and damage their faith".
Allah, the Arabic word for God, is commonly used in the Malay language to refer to God.
The government says Allah should be exclusively reserved for Muslims because of concerns its use by others would confuse Muslims and tempt them to convert. Malay Muslims account for about 60% of Malaysia's 30 million people, while Christians makeup about 9% of the country's population.
The ministry said Allah is holy for Muslims and warned that such irresponsible use of the word can provoke the community and threaten public safety.
Ultraman is a fictional Japanese superhero who fights monsters and first appeared on television in the 1960s. A line in the book said Ultraman "is considered and respected as Allah, or the Elder, to all ultra heroes."
"The Ultraman character itself is not banned and only this edition is prohibited," the ministry said. Anyone caught distributing the book could be jailed three years, it warned.
The government's stand over the word Allah has sparked a controversy in the multi-racial Southeast Asian country, where many Malay-speaking Christians commonly use Allah to refer to God.
Religious tensions have been high in the past five years after the Catholic church went to court to seek the right to use Allah in its weekly newspaper.
A lower court last year ruled in favour of the government. The Catholic church has appealed to the country's highest court.