Malaysian Government Seizes Bibles

The Selangor government should immediately order its state religious department to release hundreds of copies of seized bibles to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) said today.

CFM, the umbrella body for almost all churches nationwide, expressed its disappointment at the Selangor government’s “apparent attempt” this week to “wash its hands” off the January raid and seizure.

“The Selangor State Government is duty bound to act in this matter and must not shirk its responsibility. Order the return of the Bibles now,” the CFM said in a two-page statement today.

CFM’s demand comes as critics accused the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government of kicking around the “legal football” and passing the religious hot potato to the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government.

On Wednesday, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said the state government has decided not to interfere in the ongoing controversy over the seized bibles, and BSM should officially write to the Attorney-General (A-G) to have the holy books returned.

Khalid said the Selangor executive council decided that the onus was entirely on the BSM to “show their determination and desire” to get back over 300 copies of Malay-language and Iban-language bibles, which contained the word “Allah”.

But CFM insisted that the Selangor administration is “accountable” for the January 2 raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), arguing that its officers are “authorised to act only after consultation and on the advice” of the state government.

“It is therefore perverse that the Selangor State Government is now asking BSM to look to the Attorney-General to resolve this matter,” it said, arguing that Jais acted as an “agent” of the state administration.

“It is a ludicrous suggestion that Jais had the necessary power to seize the Bibles, but that it is only with the approval and authorisation of the Attorney-General that these very same Bibles can be released.

“This is nothing short of ‘passing the buck’, and is totally unacceptable,” CFM added.

In an immediate response on Wednesday, BSM demanded the Selangor government “correct” the “unjust situation” created by Jais and resolve the matter without passing it to the federal government.

Previously, The Malay Mail Online reported that Jais was expected to return “most” of the bibles seized in the January 2 raid, save for a few for further investigations.

The department was also said to have been in consultation with the A-G on whether to press charges against BSM over the use of the word “Allah” in the 300-odd bibles and whether the books should be returned to the society.

A 1988 state enactment prohibits non-Muslims from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faiths, including “Allah” as part of measures to control the propagation of other religions to Muslims.

Besides Selangor, nine other states have similar enactments banning non-Muslim usage of “Allah” and other Arabic words, except Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territories.

Lawyers have denounced the 1988 Selangor enactment that prohibits non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” as unconstitutional.

BSM has argued that its Malay-language bibles were only meant for distribution in churches in Sabah and Sarawak and for Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula — which includes the Orang Asli and those from East Malaysia. 

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