Malaysia’s monopoly on Allah

The controversy in Malaysia over the right of Christian communities to use the word “Allah,” which has resulted in the firebombing of at least nine Christian churches, is rooted in politics, with the governing body UMNO and Islamist opposition parties attempting to out-Sharia each other.
Over the course of the past week, nine churches in Malaysia have been firebombed by Muslim extremists who object to the Christian community’s use of the word “Allah” in their prayers. The dispute came to a head on December 31st when the high court of Malaysia ruled in favor of Catholics using the word in the Malay edition of their weekly newspaper.
What’s particularly perplexing about this is that the Islamist political party PAS actually supports the right of Christians to invoke Allah by name, whereas the ruling political coalition UMNO is pushing for Allah to be reserved for Muslims only. This is essentially a classic case of an incumbent political party, after suffering significant setbacks at the polls, invoking religion as a base-rallying prop and exploiting and stoking religious tensions for pure political gain – reminicent of the Ayodhya issue in India whose repercussions on undermining religious tolerance continue to this day. The irony of a moderate party out-Islaming the Islamists is not lost on UMNO party veterans, like Tengku Razaleigh, who are aghast and speaking out at the naked cynicism of their party: