Rather, the decision of the government appears to have been a strategic appeal to the ethnocentric sentiments of a Malay, and as such Muslim, majority voter base in a move that Malaysians have come to recognise as a leaf out of the playbook of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the political party which Najib heads and which has led the coalition government that has ruled since independence.
The UMNO-led coalition suffered a setback at the 12th general election in 2008, when it lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and the popular vote in peninsular Malaysia. Persuaded by the meritocratic rhetoric of the opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim, more Malays were voting against UMNO. UMNO placed the blame for this state of affairs at the feet of Najib's predecessor, Abdullah Badawi, whose attempts to reduce the emphasis on race and religion in the politics of the coalition that he led were characterised as weakness.
Ratcheting up racial and religious sensitivities was, in the minds of influential members of the party, the way to go. Reactions to the initial ruling point to that having been a factor in the decision to appeal the first ruling, as does government rhetoric surrounding the decision to appeal.
Read the rest at: Of Allah and the state of Malaysia, Al-Jazeera