Malay Bibles Desecrated by Malaysian Authorities

“Oh No! They killed our loved ones even though we paid the ransom.”

This is the worst nightmare experienced by people who paid ransom to kidnappers  only to find their loved ones returned to them executed.

“Oh No! They desecrated our beloved Holy Bibles.”

This is the heart wrenching experience of Malaysian Christians who found their Holy Bibles returned to them defaced and desecrated. Malaysian Christians have earlier out of courtesy and grace agreed with the government to print the Alkitab (Malay Bible) with the symbol of the cross on the front cover along with the caption “A Christian Publication” [ The claim by the Minister of Home Affairs that Christians have earlier agreed to have the phrase, “For Christians only” stamped on the Alkitab is a lie. There was no such agreement. His statement, “We stamped the Bible based on amalan (practice) before… during Abdullah Badawi and even Tun Dr Mahathir’s time,” is also a lie].

Nevertheless, the authorities proceeded to detain 5000 copies of the Alkitab for the last two years.

Malaysian Christians  waited with guarded optimism when the government recently announced that it will release the Alkitab that have been confiscated but to their horror they were suddenly informed that the authorities have hurriedly and unilaterally stamped all the Alkitab with an ugly notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs. See picture below.

The English translation reads: Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

Notice the official chop/stamp (Bottom Left) and the serial number that is to be imprinted onto the Bible (Upper Right).

The defaced Bible is now imprinted with a serial number, obviously to facilitate the authorities threatening to track every copy of the Alkitab used by the community.

Christians are horrified by the arrogance of the officials. The contemptuous act of defacing the Alkitab is nothing less than sacrilege.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia rightly expressed that they felt “deeply hurt”. I think it is being polite. “Outrage” would have been a more appropriate word.

I think the only proper thing for the government to do is to make immediate amends: Apologize for its callous act. Return the Alkitab back to the publisher and replace them with new Alkitab. Under no circumstances should these defaced Alkitab be destroyed – that would be another act of desecration. The government should bear all costs and give written assurance that such desecration will never happen again.

O God, your Holy Scripture has been desecrated, your name and reputation defiled! When will you rise up and judge all these arrogant offenders for their blatant act of sacrilege?

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17th March 2011
Christian Federation of Malaysia Media Statement

HOLY SCRIPTURES DESECRATED

The Christian community in Malaysia is deeply hurt that the Government has desecrated and defaced the Bible.

Initial news that the Government had agreed to  release copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia which had been impounded in both Port Klang and Kuching was greeted with joy.

However,  this joy  soon turned  into  grief and mourning when it was discovered that the release was subject to certain conditions.  Each copy has to be stamped with a serial number, the official seal of the relevant department of the Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan Dan Teks Al-Quran, and the words “by order of the Minister of Home Affairs”.

This means that the Bahasa Malaysia Bible is now treated as a restricted item, and the Word of God has been made subject to the control of man.  This is wholly offensive to Christians.  Any person who respects the Holy Scriptures of any religion would be appalled by this action.

The Christian community in Malaysia has always acted in good faith and with great patience to find amicable solutions without compromising our fundamental beliefs.  But that good faith has not been reciprocated by the Government.  It is the Government that has moved the “goal posts” over the years through a systematic imposition of unreasonable conditions and
restrictions.

We have never agreed to any wording to be endorsed on Bibles to say that it is only for
Christians.  The 1982 order issued under the Internal Security Act 1960 did not state that any
form of words had to be endorsed on any copy of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.

The latest letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 15 March 2011 is therefore a set of new  conditions imposed on the release of the impounded Bibles which is wholly unacceptable to us.  We will never accede to any desecration of the Bible since the Word of God to us is sacred.

We also wholly reject the Government’s contention that the Bible  in Bahasa Malaysia  is prejudicial to the national  interest and security of Malaysia, and treated as a subversive publication.

As Christians we wonder how our Holy Scriptures can become a national security threat where countless number of us find it helpful in bringing hope and healing to broken lives and homes which we can testify to.  Besides it commands us to be better citizens of our beloved nation.

We therefore insist that the Government withdraw the conditions imposed on the release of the Bibles impounded in Port Klang and Kuching.  Given that copies may already have been endorsed, we will NOT take delivery of those endorsed copies.

We call on all Malaysians, from Semenanjung and in Sabah and Sarawak, and from all walks
of life, to come together in unity to reject any attempt to restrict the freedom of religion in our
beloved country.

We invite all Christians in Malaysia to remain calm and to continue to pray for a dignified and respectful resolution of this issue.  As Sunday 20 March 2011 marks the 2nd anniversary of the impounding of the Bibles at Port Klang, we call on all those in Malaysia and elsewhere to dedicate themselves to a day of prayer and quiet reflection.

Yours sincerely,

Bishop Ng Moon Hing
Chairman and the Executive Committee,
Christian Federation of Malaysia

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Alkitab defaced, says Bible Society

Malaysia Insider LINK
By Debra Chong March 16, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) was told today that its shipment of 5,100 Malay bibles seized at Port Klang had already been stamped with the home ministry’s official seal without its prior permission.

“At 5pm today, KDN informed Bible Society of Malaysia that they had already chopped the bibles and asked Bible Society of Malaysia to come collect the bibles,” the importer said in a statement to The Malaysian Insider, calling the home ministry by its Malay initials.

“Bible Society of Malaysia is alarmed by the defacement of the Christian bible by non-Christians chopping it with words that the Christians have not accepted or agreed to,” it added.

The BSM had earlier today refused to collect its cargo of holy books that had been detained for the last two years after the home ministry imposed two conditions for their release.

The society was stunned that home ministry officials had moved to act on their own and only notified BSM after the act, and called on the ministry to immediately put a stop to it.

“As the bible is the holy book of the Christians, due respect should be given to it by consulting the relevant Christian representative organs before any external text is inserted into the bibles.

“Bible Society of Malaysia calls upon KDN to stop chopping the copies of the Alkitab detained at Port Kelang [sic],” it said in the statement issued today.

Church leaders have stressed that they cannot follow the conditions imposed by the ministry, as it would mean desecrating their own holy book.

A separate shipment of 30,000 Malay bibles worth RM78,000 imported by the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons, was also seized at Kuching port.

The Malaysian Insider understands that its cargo has been untouched, unlike BSM’s consignment, after the Sarawak importer told the home ministry state director to wait while it consults national Christian leaders.

The Sarawak importer had said it too was refusing to collect the Alkitab for the same reasons as the BSM.

The Malaysian Insider understands Sarawak home ministry officials had earlier contacted the importer to collect their holy books and carry out the stamping on their own.

Both importers are seeking advice from national church leaders on the matter.

BSM reminded the home ministry of its previous agreement made with the Christian community and repeated in an official letter dated December 22, 2005 “that Christians are permitted to have access to their holy book in the Bahasa Malaysia language provided that the sign of the cross and the words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ are respectfully imprinted by Christians themselves”.

The society urged the home ministry to honour that agreement.

Yesterday, the importers each received a notice from the home ministry’s Publications Control and Quranic Text Division secretary, Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad, informing them of the two conditions imposed for the release.

The first requires the importers to directly stamp on the cover of each of the 35,000 copies the following words: “Peringatan: ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ ini untuk kegunaan penganut agama Kristian sahaja. Dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri.”

[In English: “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”]

The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

The second condition requires the importers to stamp a serial number on each copy, as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import.

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Church leaders accuse Putrajaya of religious bigotry

Malaysia Insider LINK
By Debra Chong
March 16, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Church leaders in Malaysia are alarmed over the home ministry’s latest directive for the conditional release of 35,000 Malay bibles and have refused to collect the holy books for the time being.

Hours after learning that Putrajaya had agreed to release their shipment of the Alkitab — as the Malay bibles are called locally — yesterday, the importers each received a notice from the home ministry’s Publications Control and Quranic Text Division secretary, Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad, informing them of two conditions for the release.

The first requires the importers to directly stamp on the cover of each of the 35,000 copies the following words: “Peringatan: ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ ini untuk kegunaan penganut agama Kristian sahaja. Dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri.”

[In English: “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”]

The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

The second condition requires the importers to stamp a serial number on each copy, as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import.

A copy of the faxed letter was made available to The Malaysian Insider.

The Malaysian Insider understands the Sarawak importer has refused to claim its cargo of 30,000 books seized from Kuching port and has notified the home ministry’s state director.

“It says it’s for ‘Christian use only’. But in Sarawak, we have family who are of all religions — Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist … If we pass the Alkitab to our brother or sister who is not Muslim, if we do that, then it means we are in the wrong,” said a source close to the importer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We cannot deface our holy bible,” the source added.

When contacted, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) said it was seeking advice from national leaders in the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) before taking any action.

The CFM is an umbrella body that represents over 90 per cent of churches in Malaysia.

“BSM has requested CFM to study KDN 15/3 release letter which has additional conditions like marking serial no.  /5100 and getting Cop Rasmi Jabatan KDN and dated,” its general secretary, Reverend Simon Wong replied in a text message.

Wong added that the society will not be making any further comments and that related queries should be directed to the CFM instead.

CFM executive secretary, Tan Kong Beng, said its executive council is holding a meeting to “review the situation” and will issue a statement once it has decided what to do.

Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) secretary-general, Dr Hermen Shastri, was outraged by the ministry’s letter and conditional release, describing it as an act of “high-handedness”.

“They are mixing up religion and policy … It’s getting worse and worse. They are acting very high-handed. There is no more respect for other religions,” he said, and slammed Putrajaya for treating the Alkitab “like a communist book”.

“We do not accept any such conditions that belittle our religion. We are talking about the holy book here.  The government has no right to impose its views of one religion on followers of another,” he told The Malaysian Insider, repeatedly.

“Who gave the order? Why do we have to put ‘Dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri’ on the cover of our holy book?” he demanded, adding that the very act was a “desecration of the holy book”, which contradicted the Federal Constitution’s guarantees on freedom of religion.

“It’s as if their agenda is ‘We are telling you, you are using the Bible to convert Malays,” he said.

Shastri also slammed the de facto law minister, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, for imposing Muslim views on Christianity; and for repeatedly linking the Alkitab row to the Catholic Church’s court case on the right to use “Allah” — the Arabic word for God — in its newspaper.

The man of the cloth said the Alkitab and the “Allah” court case were separate issues; and challenged the federal government to prove the Alkitab had been banned under law.

Shastri said the ministry’s conditions showed that Christianity was “being singled out” as a threat as there were no such conditions imposed on the holy books of other religions, including Islam.

“Imagine if such conditions were imposed on the Al-Quran. I wonder how Muslims worldwide would take it?” he said and reminded the Najib administration about the incident of an American pastor who threatened to burn the Muslim holy book last year, in protest of a mosque being built near New York’s Ground Zero.

Shastri also questioned the Najib administration on its sudden move to impose the conditions requiring that the shipment bear the stamp and serial numbers.

He noted that it was the first time such an order had been given.

The home ministry had released an earlier consignment of 10,000 copies in Sarawak last Christmas Day without imposing conditions.

The Najib administration had made the order yesterday, bowing to pressure from Christian churches and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians.

The Cabinet was set to discuss the issue on Friday but with the seizure of the bibles drawing protest from Christians nationwide, a majority of whom live in Sabah and Sarawak, the federal government was forced to take action ahead of Sarawak polls set to take place next month.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia, which represents 90 per cent of churches in Malaysia, has said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made a decision to release the Alkitabs but so far, the home ministry, which controls customs, has refused to hand over the bibles.

Nazri said the 30,000 copies of the Alkitab in Sarawak will be allowed into the state.

Christians, who make up close to 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 28 million population, use Bahasa Malaysia in Sabah and Sarawak churches to preach to a multi-ethnic congregation who each have a distinctive tribal language.

But evangelical churches there, such as Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), have crossed the South China Sea to preach to the growing number of Sarawakians and Sabahans who are settling down in the peninsula after furthering their studies or finding work here.

Yesterday, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala, a Sarawakian Christian, said the government had decided on the release of the Alkitab in line with a 1982 gazette under the Internal Security Act which allows its limited and controlled importation and circulation on condition that the books are stamped: “For Christians Only.”

“Since 1982, with this gazette, there have been no problems in its implementation. As such, taking into account this fact, the government has decided to apply the 1982 gazette and release the bibles accordingly,” the statement said.

Jala said that after a careful and thorough review, the Attorney-General confirmed that the release of the bibles did not prejudice the ongoing court case of the “Allah” issue.

The minister also noted that the Sarawak government had categorically expressed its view that the impounded bibles should be released.

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Christians say will not collect Malay Bibles

Malaysia Insider LINK
By Debra Chong
March 17, 2011

Nowhere in the Internal Security Act (ISA) is it stated that any form of words has to be endorsed on any copy of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The Christian community said today it is appalled by what it says is the Najib administration’s desecration of 5,100 holy books shipped in from Indonesia and has flat out refused to collect the Port Klang shipment.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), which represents over 90 per cent of churches in the country, insisted that Putrajaya immediately drop the conditions imposed for the release of two shipments of Malay Bibles totalling 35,000 copies seized from Port Klang and Kuching port.

Last night, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) was told its shipment of 5,100 Alkitab — as the Malay Bibles are called — have been stamped with the Home Ministry’s official seal, as per the conditions imposed for the release issued two days ago, without its prior permission.

The first requires the importers to directly stamp on the cover of each of the 35,000 copies the following words: “Peringatan: ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ ini untuk kegunaan penganut agama Kristian sahaja. Dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri.” [In English: “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”]

The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

The second condition requires the importers to stamp a serial number on each copy as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import.

“This means that the Bahasa Malaysia Bible is now treated as a restricted item, and the Word of God has been made subject to the control of man. This is wholly offensive to Christians,” CFM said in a strongly-worded statement today signed by its chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing.

The umbrella body refuted government claims it had reached a compromise, saying it had never agreed that its holy books should be endorsed to say “it is only for Christians”.

“Any person who respects the Holy Scriptures of any religion would be appalled by this action. We will never accede to any desecration of the Bible since the Word of God to us is sacred,” it said.

Pointing to a 1982 order issued under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the CFM said nowhere in law was it stated that any form of words had to be endorsed on any copy of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Given that copies may already have been endorsed, we will NOT take delivery of those endorsed copies,” it added.

The CFM said it also wholly rejects the federal government’s argument that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is “prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia”.

It condemned the government’s treatment of its holy books as “subversive publication”.

The CFM said Christian Malaysians have always acted in good faith and with great patience to reach a peaceful end to religious dispute that would not compromise their beliefs.

“But that good faith has not been reciprocated by the government,” it said.

It further accused Putrajaya of having moved the “goal posts” over the years “through a systematic imposition of unreasonable conditions and restrictions”.

“As Christians we wonder how our Holy Scriptures can become a national security threat where countless number of us find it helpful in bringing hope and healing to broken lives and homes which we can testify to,” it said.

The CFM called on all Malaysians to rally together and reject all attempts to control the freedom of religion in the country.

It also advised all Christians to remain calm and pray for a dignified and respectful resolution to the ongoing Alkitab row and noted that Sunday will mark the second year the holy books have been detained at Port Klang.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein defended today his ministry’s stamping of the 5,100 Malay-language bibles in Port Klang with its official seal, saying it was standard protocol and not done to “deface” the Alkitab.

The minister also said his men had no choice but to adhere to these procedures as the BSM had wanted the Bibles to be released quickly.

“We stamped the Bible based on amalan (practice) before… during Abdullah Badawi and even Tun Dr Mahathir’s time,” Hishammuddin told reporters today, referring to the two immediate past prime ministers.

Hishammuddin appeared to suggest that the Christian community’s uproar over what they considered a violation of their holy book to be manufactured.

“They wanted it to be released quickly… if they want to find fault they can find fault… you can even say the Bibles are smelly after being kept for so long, if you want to find fault (with everything),” the minister claimed.

He said his officials had no intention to deface the Bibles, stressing that the Christian community should engage his ministry directly if it had issues or complaints over the measures taken.

However, he also voiced frustration over the inability to bridge the now-widening chasm with the community over the issue.

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11 Responses to “Malay Bibles Desecrated by Malaysian Authorities”

  1. Paul Long Says:

    Thank you Dr.Ng for adding you voice to this matter. God bless!

  2. …By Order of Home Minister « A Chorus of Echoes Says:

    […] is a good overview about the whole fiasco from Religious Liberty […]

  3. SP Lim Says:

    Don’t Christians also highlight, underline and write notes on their bibles? Isn’t that considered defacement? Most Christians will not hesitate to put their Bibles on the floor or even walk over them, bring them to toilets etc. Doesn’t that consider desecration. After all, the Bible is only ink and paper, so they argue. So why create such a big fuss.

    So I think we ought to be careful in what we are objecting to. What I find unacceptable is the restriction placed on the Al-Kitab and the sheer arrogance of those words “Dengan Perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri”. In addition the requirement to have serial no. is very mischievous.

    By the way, perhaps it’s about time we learn how to treat our Bibles properly so that others will also give them the due respect. They are not merely ink and paper. Behind it there is a divine author. Any author will feel insulted if you were to step on his book or deface it in some ways. How much more, when the author is the Lord of the Universe.

    Yes. Mr. Home Minister. May you be judged by acting beyond your authority and trying to impose your will and authority on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

  4. Contemplative Says:

    On a side note, I have yet to seen an English Qur’an with the stamp “For Muslims Only”.

  5. CS Ting Says:

    The arrogance and audacity of the Home Ministry, and the Officials will sure face Father’s wrath and judgment. Who do they think they are? Greater than God? Absolute power that corrupts so absolutely? Pulling wool over citizens’ eyes again and again, subtle and overt oppressions are escalating. May we all stand firm to the end, till justice is done.

  6. CS Ting Says:

    errata. Sure = Surely face Father’s…

  7. Leong Fook Onn Says:

    Bishop Ng Moon Hing you are very correct not to take the delivery of those descrated Holy Books of ALL the people,at the stage we can pray and ask the Devine to help the NO one as a man in the Malaysia can help us,because the man is not going to help,There is a Chinese saying “Pulling one’s cat tail”

  8. William Bernard Says:

    The root cause of this problem is the word “Allah” which Muslims in Malaysia feel is for their usage only.That is a wrong assumption on their part as the word “Allah” is an Arab word meaning “God” just as “Tuhan” is a Malay word meaning “God”.So until all Muslims in Malaysia realizes the error of their assumption,that it is just an Arab word meaning God and that anybody and everybody can use the word,I foresee no end to this issue.

  9. allen Says:

    i hope that this wil result in Fellow Malaysians of the Muslim faith to go read and find out the truth of how horrible a book this really is according to our home ministry servants.

  10. Ralph Says:

    First, I woiuld like to say that I agree with Allen. I also hope that it will pique the interest of Mayalasian Muslims to find our what is so bad about the bible. The only one that the bible will be bad or dangerous to is satan.

    Second, this is just preparing the way for the antichrist. It won’t be long now. So we believers need to get on the ball and lead as many non-believers to salvation as possible. God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us. Jesus, Himself said that we would do greater things than He did. And He brought the dead back to life. We need to start using the power.

  11. Rich fields Says:

    To Muslims, The fear of knowing the truth. yes, it is a great fear until you come to know the truth. The truth will then set you free.

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