I watched the final episode of Rockstar INXS with some interest recently. During Mig's final performance, he sang Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody":
But Iâ€™m just a poor boy and nobody loves me- Heâ€™s just a poor boy from a poor family- Spare him his life from this monstrosity- Easy come easy go-,will you let me go- Bismillah! no-,we will not let you go-let him go- Bismillah! we will not let you go-let him go Bismillah! we will not let you go-let me go Will not let you go-let me go Will not let you go let me go No,no,no,no,no,no,no- Mama mia,mama mia,mama mia let me go- Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me,for me,for me-
The phrase, "bismillah" was bleeped out of the transmission, presumably by our local censors, presumably because of the reference of the word to how Muslims start any prayer, "Bismillahirahmanirahim", which roughly translates to, "in the name of Allah the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate".
Assuming my assumptions are true, and the censors did take their scissors to that part of the song, the whole affair stinks of a dash of overzealous-ness, and a pinch of ignorance.
While the phrase "bismillah" is used by Muslims, its by no means an exclusive usage of the language; Arabic does not necessarily symbolise Islam. Arabic is the language used by the people of the Middle Eastern region -- Muslims and non-Muslims share the language in equal numbers. While the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic (naturally, as that was the only language he understood), it is by no means the only holy book that's written in Arabic. In short, Islam does not have a monopoly over the language.
Therefore, when someone says "bismillah", he is in effect saying "In the Name of God" in Arabic -- you don't have to be a Muslim to say it, and if you're not a Muslim, no one has the right to stop you from saying it.
I'm reminded of an experience in university. A friend of mine, a Catholic, a very lovely lady from the Philippines was studying for her Masters in the International Islamic University Malaysia. For one reason or another, she picked up the habit of wishing her Muslim friends, "Assalamualaikum" (literally translated, "peace be upon you") when she meets them. Also, she answers with "Waalaikumussalam" (literally translated, "and peace to you too") when she is greeted or hears someone offering salam.
Many Malaysian Muslims may think otherwise, but there is nothing inherently Islamic (or un-Islamic) about offering salam or being polite enough to answer appropriately when someone says it to you. Again, its just a language, the Arabic language. Just because you're a Muslim, it doesn't mean you're expected to understand it (many Muslims, myself included, read the Quran, but we don't understand Arabic and need to rely on a third-party translation), similarly just because you're not a Muslim, it doesn't mean you're expected not to use it.