Law Text Culture


The power to name is both an awesome and awful power – it is
an exercise of sovereign power. In the Abrahamic religions, the
monotheistic God is the ultimate sovereign. The power to name God,
then, is one of the most magnificent powers that is conceivable to
humans: it is the sovereign power to name the ultimate sovereign. It is
this naming of God that has been put on trial in Malaysia. The state
decrees that the name ‘Allah’ is only to be used in reference to the
Islamic God. Christians, in response, have insisted that the state has no
monopoly over the power to name God, and they too should be able to
call their God – the Christian God – by the name of ‘Allah’. The matter
ends up in court, where judges are asked to decide on the name of
God. This case raises a perplexing puzzle: how on earth did the human
judges in Malaysia end up with the power to name the divine judge?