Malaysia has banned an Ultraman comic book because it uses the word “Allah” to describe the Japanese action hero.
The Home Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the Malay-edition of “Ultraman, The Ultra Power” contained elements that could undermine public security and societal morals.
“Ultraman is idolised by many children” and equating the lead character, Ultraman King, with Allah would especially “confuse Muslim children and damage their faith”, the statment said, according to an Associated Press news agency report.
Allah, the Arabic word for God, is commonly used in the Malay language to refer to God.
“Allah cannot be used by outsiders or Christians. People now may know the difference but our children will not know,” said Rosli Ani, a representative of a Muslim NGO known as Per3, the AFP news agency reported.
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.
Both Arab Muslims and Christians use the word Allah for God.
Malay Muslims account for about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 30 million people, while Christians makeup about 9 percent 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 tough stance over the word Allah has sparked controversy, as 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 favor of the government, a ruling against which the Catholic church has appealed to the country’s highest court.
On Wednesday hundreds of Muslims demonstrated outside Malaysia’s Federal Court as it postponed its decision whether it would hear the case.
The church’s lawyer Cyrus Das said he was “quite confident” the panel would allow a full hearing.