The ‘Kalimah Allah’ Debacle: Competing Narratives in Politics, Law, and Religion
Keywords:Kalimah Allah, Political Islam, Islam and Politics in Malaysia, The Herald, Jill Ireland
This article studies the various competing narratives concerning the legal battle to use the word ‘Allah’ in Malaysia. Beginning in 2008, two court cases involving the word Allah drew considerable national attention and challenged the relationship between Malaysia’s Muslim majority and Christian minority. The first case, which received the most attention and generated the most substantive debates, involved the Catholic newspaper, the Herald: The Catholic Weekly. The second case involved Jill Ireland, a native Christian Sarawakian bumiputra, whose religious CDs were confiscated upon her arrival at the LCCT airport in Sepang, Negeri Sembilan. These two court cases serve as primary sources of information for analysing the multiple narratives present in the Kalimah Allah debate across three dimensions: politics, law, and religion. The three dimensions will then be incorporated into a heuristic model based on feedback loops, a systems thinking tool, in which interrelations between various narratives are visualised for a better understanding of the complexity of the Kalimah Allah issue, particularly within Malaysia’s unique political, legal, and religious contexts.
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