KUALA LUMPUR — In the latest round of a divisive political and religious saga, a Malaysian court ruled Monday that the word “Allah” can only be used by the country’s Muslim majority, overturning a previous decision that allowed other faiths using the term to denote “God” in their local-language services and scriptures. This morning, Malaysia’s Court of Appeals issued an expansive ruling that sparked surprise and anger throughout the country. At the court in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya, Justice Mohamed Apandi read a brief summary of the 100+ page judgment. “Our common finding is that the usage of Allah is not an integral part of the Christian faith. We cannot find why the parties are so adamant on the usage of the word,” he said.
On July 11, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee uploaded a Facebook photo of themselves eating bah kut teh, a savoury pork-rib soup popular among ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore. No harm in that, you might think. But posting such a photo at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting season, in which the devout – banned from eating pork to begin with – spend a full month without eating from dawn until dusk, proved highly provocative in Malaysia, where the majority of the population is Malay Muslim. The Malaysian couple even posted a halal logo beside their message, which read “Happy Breaking Fast, with fragrant, delicious and appetising bak kut teh.” It was, they said, meant as a gag, but many Muslims didn’t see the funny side of having their annual month-long privations — which include abstaining from sex — mocked by a couple whose previous claim to fame was for posting pornographic images of themselves.