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Christians and Jews in the Arabian peninsula since before the time of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) had been referring to God as Allah.
By Reza Aslan

Malaysia’s highest court, last month dismissed an attempt by Christians for the right to use the word Allah, ending a long legal battle that has escalated religious tensions in the country. The government had previously banned the use of Allah in the local Malay-language edition of the Church’s Herald newspaper, which had angered Muslims, who say Christians are overstepping religious boundaries.
This notion that Malaysian Muslims need to be protected by the court because you can’t think for yourself, you can’t make decisions on your own, that you can control people’s ideas, their behavior, their faith and their minds simply by trying to control the words that they use, is absurd. It is an embarrassment to a modern, constitutional, democratic and deeply Muslim state like Malaysia.
Christians using the word Allah – which means God in Arabic is not a threat to Islam. A Taliban put a bomb in the Quran and took it to a mosque in Pakistan, where Muslims were slaughtered on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar. You want to talk about threats to Islam? That’s a threat to Islam.
Allah is construction of the word al-Ilah. That’s what the word is. “Al-Ilah means ‘The God’. Allah is not the name of God. Frankly, anyone who thinks that Allah is the name of God, is not just incorrect, but is going against the Quran itself. It is almost a blasphemous thought to think that Allah has a name. And this is not an interpretation. It is a historical fact. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal’s three-man panel ruled that the word Allah was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice and that such usage if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community.
Pakistan’s Daily Times questioned the ruling, asking why Malaysia would deny people of other faiths to “own God in all His attributes”. The United Arab Emirates’ The National called the court ruling “wrong”, and said the word Allah was never exclusive to Islam, but used by both Christians and Jews to refer to God even before the advent of Islam.
This idea that not only should Christians not be able to use this word, but that using the word is somehow a threat to Islam… that Malaysian (Muslims) are so stupid if they hear a Christian use the word Allah, they will accidentally become Christians. I mean, the idiocy of that statement speaks for itself.
Christians and Jews in the Arabian peninsula since before the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) had been referring to God as Allah. Why? Because they spoke Arabic,.that’s why. Not because Allah meant a specific God, but because that it is nothing more than the Arabic word for God. It is not an opinion. It is a fact.
Any Imam who tells you that God has a name, is blasphemous. It is as simple as that. Allah is not God’s name. Muslims do not own the word itself.
(The writer is a visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa. The views expressed here are his own)