Malaysia has banned a comic book starring the Japanese
superhero Ultraman because it could disturb "public order",
sparking a torrent of online ridicule from those who saw it as
the latest sign of excessive censorship in the Muslim-majority
The book, "Ultraman The Ultra Power", was banned from
February 18 with a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment
for anyone who imported or published the comic, state news
agency Bernama reported the home ministry as saying.
The book was on a list of banned publications on the
ministry's website on Friday.
Home ministry officials did not respond to a request for
comment on the ban and on reports that it had been
implemented because it contains a reference comparing
Ultraman to "Allah", the Malay and Arabic word for God.
The Star newspaper reported that the offending line in the
comic read: "Ultraman is seen and respected as Allah or an
elder of all Ultra warriors."
The word Allah has been at the centre of an intense
controversy in Malaysia in recent months, following a court
ruling last October that banned a Catholic newspaper from
using the term.
Government ministers and Islamic authorities have said the
word is exclusive to majority Muslims in peninsula Malaysia,
despite Christians having used it in their worship for
Ultraman shot to the top of Malaysia topics trending on
Twitter on Friday, with most users pouring scorn on the ban.
"Don't ever underestimate Malaysia government...They can even
stop a superhero from entering the country," joked one
person, with the username Shashii.
Even a government minister voiced puzzlement: "What's wrong
with Ultraman?" wrote Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister of
youth and sports.
The Ultraman character, born out of a 1960s Japanese
television series, is a superhero with alien powers who
protects the Earth from a variety of rampaging monsters.
Malaysia's image as a moderate Muslim nation has been
undermined in recent years by a shift towards more
conservative Islamic values. Authorities regularly ban movies
or books deemed too vulgar, sexually explicit or religiously
sensitive and have banned some foreign pop music stars from
performing in the country.