A Malaysian government official confirmed today that the comic Ultraman the Ultra Power was banned because it contains translated text that refers to one of the characters as "Allah," the Arabic word for God, which could confuse young readers and offend Muslims.
“It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King," Hashimah Nik Jaafar, the Home Ministry's secretary of Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division, told The Malay Mail. "It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King. We have banned that because it can create confusion among children who read this caption. “They might think Ultraman King is Allah, which is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not to be visualized in any way."
The offending sentence reportedly is, “He is considered, and respected as, ‘Allah’ or the Elder of all Ultra heroes.”
Although the ministry originally stated the comic is "detrimental to public order," Hashimah clarified that it instead may "alarm public opinion." She also stressed the ban only applies to the Malay-language edition of Ultraman the Ultra Power and doesn't extend to other Ultraman comics and movies.
The use of "Allah" is a source of religious tension in Malaysia, where Muslims account for about 60 percent of the country's 30 million people; Christians compose just 9 percent. Although Malay-speaking Christians commonly use Allah to refer to God, the Home Ministry in 2007 threatened to revoke the publishing permit of the Herald, the Catholic Church's newspaper, for printing the word in its Malay editions. The Church took its fight to court, where in October a judge sided with the government; an appeal is pending.
Both bans fall under the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which gives the Home Ministry wide-ranging authority over printed material. Anyone who prints, imports, distributes or even possesses a banned work could face up to three years in jail, a fine of about $6,100 U.S., or both.
However, Resign Publications, which published the Malay edition of Ultraman the Ultra Power, may face further problems: MSN News reports that a Home Ministry official said the company doesn't have a printing permit, and couldn't be found at the address listed in the comic.