Louis Palme / Jan 20, 2014

If you are going to Malaysia, you had better watch your words.  There are at least 35 Arabic words and expressions that non-Muslims are forbidden from using, either verbally or in writing. Malaysia is comprised of a mixed population of 50.4% native Malays, 23.7% Chinese, 7.1% Indian, and 18.8% indigenous or other, so Islam constitutes only a slight majority of the religious beliefs practiced in the country.  While there is officially religious freedom, the Malay Muslims are a protected class in Malaysia.

The list of prohibited words varies depending on which state you are in.  The following 10 Malaysian states have their own lists: Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Terengganu.   The penalty for using such words is not trivial:  Up to two years in jail, a fine of about $1,000 U.S. dollars, or both.   It seems that Muslims fear that Christians will use those words when reaching out to Muslims, and the Muslims may be convinced that Christianity is superior to Islam. This is clearly a case of extreme paranoia. Meanwhile, watch your words!

Here is the list (Note: The Malay rendering of Arabic words is sometimes different from the way Arabic words are Romanized in the West and in the Middle East. The common Romanized rendering was inserted when known):

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah.)

Allah (The god of Islam.)

Allahuakbar  (Allah is greater.)

Astaghfirullahlah  (I ask Allah for forgiveness.)

Dakwah [Da’wah] (Islamic proselytizing or religious invitation to submit to Islam.)

Fatwah (A religious edict.)

Firman Allah (Allah’s decree.)

Hadith/Hadis (A collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad.)

Haji (A Muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.)

Ibadah (Worship, but not limited to ritual: all expressions of servitude to God, including the pursuit of knowledge, living a pious life, helping, charity, and humility, can be considered ibadah.)

Ilahi (My God.)

Imam (A mosque prayer leader.)

Iman (Faith.)

Injil  (Gospel.)

Insya-Allah [Inshallah]  (Allah willing.)

Kaabah  (The holy cubical building in Mecca.)

Kadi [Qadi] (A judge in the Islamic community.)

Khalifah (The civil and religious leader of a Muslim state considered to be a successor of Muhammad.)

Lahaula walaquata illabillahilaliyil azim  [La haula wala quata illa billahil azim]  (There is no power and no strength except Allah's, the highest high, the almighty.)

Laillahaillallah [La ilaha illa allah] (There is no deity but Allah.)

Masya-Allah  (Allah has willed it.)

Mubaligh (Missionary.)

Mufti  (A Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious matters.)

Nabi (A prophet.)

Qiblat/kiblat (Direction of prayer.)

Rasul (A messenger sent by Allah.)

Salat/Solat (Daily prayers.)

Sheikh (An honorific title meaning leader, elder, or Islamic scholar.)

Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah.)

Syariah [Shariah] (Islamic law based on the Koran and example of Muhammad.)

Tabaraka Allah (Blessed is Allah.)

Ulama (A body of Muslim scholars recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology.)

Wahyu [wahi] (Dream, revelation, vision.)

Wali  (A guardian of a woman, or a governor of a region if the letter “a” is pronounced long.)

Walillahilham [Wa lillahi-l-hamd]  (Praise is to be to Allah.)

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