Jais Seizes Al-Kitab, Iban Bibles; Bible Society Malaysia Officials Held

The Malay Mail Online 2 Jan 2014 LINK For Analysis – See Krisis & Praxis article, “The Beginning of Persecution of Christian Minorities in Malaysia? LINK

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 – Selangor Islamic authorities raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) in Petaling Jaya today and seized copies of both the Malay-language and Iban bibles that contain the word “Allah”, while three BSM officials are also being held by police.

BSM executive council member Nic Ng told The Malay Mail Online today that a team of about 20 people including police officers and officials from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) arrived at the society’s premises over an hour ago and demanded entry despite not bearing a warrant.

“I told the staff not to let them in because Jais has no authority over non-Muslims, but they insisted,” said Ng.

 Ng said that the BSM workers were forced to allow the team entry after they allegedly threatened to break down the door.

“They took at least 321 copies of the Al-Kitab, which contains the word “Allah”, and they took 16 copies of the Iban bible, the Bup Kudus. In Iban, the word for God is “Allah Ta’ala.”

“Bible Society is the one that imports and prints and distributes Malay bibles to Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

Ng said that the police then told BSM president Lee Min Choon and general-secretary Dr Simon Wong to follow them to the Damansara police station.

At the police station, Lee said that he, Simon and BSM office manager Sinclair Wong were arrested under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 that prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including the word for God, “Allah”.

“We hope the federal government will liaise with Jais to resolve this issue,” Lee told reporters, citing the Najib administration’s 10-point solution that was issued in 2011.

“The agreement was that Christians will be allowed to use the Al-Kitab in East Malaysia without any conditions, while in West Malaysia, it must be stamped with an image of the cross and the words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ (Christian Publication,” he added.

The bible distributor pointed out that all of BSM’s Malay bibles are imprinted with a picture of the cross and the words “Penerbitan Kristian” on the cover and noted that the Home Ministry regularly inspects its bible shipment imports.

“The authorities know what we’re doing. They’re aware of the existence of our bibles,” said Lee.

He added that BSM’s customers are not just the churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians, Orang Asli churches and other Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula.

“We expect the authorities to work with each other and to sort this situation out so that Malay-speaking Christians in this country can read their scriptures,” said Lee.

Jais’ raid comes after its newly-appointed director, Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad, said last Thursday that letters will be sent to all churches in Selangor to ask them to comply with the Selangor 1988 enactment.

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The Malaysian Insider LINK By Jennifer Gomez 2 Jan 2014

Selangor Islamic Authorities Raid Bible Society of Malaysia, 300 Copies of Alkitab Seized

The Selangor Islamic Religious department (Jais) has raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and carted away 300 copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban this afternoon.

A council member for the society said its chairman, Lee Min Choon (pic), and manager, Sinclair Wong, were detained and taken to the Damansara Utama police station.

The member said, as BSM was conducting a stock take today, they were told not to open the office when some 20 Jais officers accompanied by two policemen arrived about 1pm. When office workers refused to open the door, the Jais officers told the office staff to contact someone in authority for permission to let them in.

“They told our people in the office that they had five minutes to open up, otherwise they would force themselves in. When the office called me, I told them not to let anyone in because Jais has no authority over non-Muslims, neither did they have any letter or warrant to search the premises,” said a council member. He said that soon after, Lee arrived at the office and allowed five Jais officers in.

“After seizing some 321 holy books in 16 boxes, Lee and Wong were told to follow the religious officers to the Damansara Utama police station,” he added. The seized items included 300 Alkitab and 10 copies of the Bup Kudus in the Iban language and other works on Christianity. He said that one of BSM’s main roles was to import Bibles from Indonesia for distribution here.

“At the door, they said they wanted to come in as there were Bibles containing the word ‘Allah’. But that is nothing new and should not come as a surprise, this is what we do, import Bibles containing the word as allowed in the 10-point solution made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala,” the council member said.

Today’s raid comes after Catholic weekly Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said that Catholic churches in Selangor would continue to use the word “Allah” in their weekend services in Bahasa Malaysia, which is primarily attended by Sabah and Sarawak folk.

The comments came following a statement from the new director of Jais Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad, who said the state religious authorities would draw up a list of Selangor churches before writing to ask them to comply with the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988. “We will write to all the churches in Selangor to respect the law that is in force in relation to this,” he was quoted as saying.

The enactment, which was passed by the Barisan Nasional state government, prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).

Andrew’s statement caused an uproar among various non-governmental organisations, which among others, described his action as not only challenging the sensitivities of Muslims, but also a sign of disrespect for the law. Umno Selangor threatened to protest at all churches in the state on Sunday unless Andrew apologises for insisting that Christians could use the word “Allah”, reported Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia today. Umno Selangor liaison committee deputy chairman Datuk Abdul Shukor Idrus said Andrew was challenging the sultan of Selangor’s decree prohibiting non-Muslims in the state from using “Allah” to describe God.

The tussle over the word “Allah” arose in 2008 when the Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.
Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled this October that “Allah was not integral to the Christian faith”. – January 2, 2014.

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Jais Has No Right to Raid Bible Society of Malaysia Premises, Says Council of Churches

The Malaysian Insider LINK

2 Jan 2014

The Selangor Islamic authorities do not have the authority to raid the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), said the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM).

Saying they were alarmed by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) raid today on BSM where they confiscated over 300 Bibles in Malay and Iban, CCM general-secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri said that the Federal Constitution guaranteed the right of religious communities in the country to freely profess and administer their affairs.

“The Prime Minister, Selangor Menteri Besar and all Christian lawmakers should act immediately to stop such actions and further raids,” he said in a statement issued more than two hours after the controversial raid.

He said the CCM believes that Islamic authorities do not have the authority in law to enter the premises of non-Muslim religious establishments for inspection, search or raid.

He also called on the churches to stay calm and pray that the rightful authorities would act with wisdom and sensitivity to protect the religious rights of all.

Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as Allah in their prayers and holy book.

Besides the Bumiputera Christians from East Malaysia, some of whom have moved to the peninsula to live and work, Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship.

The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) president Lee Min Choon, who was detained and taken to the police station today, called on the Christian community to remain calm following the raid.

A team of officers from Jais and two policemen went to the BSM offices in Damansara Kim, in Selangor, today at 1pm and carted away some 300 copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban.

“The team wanted to enter the premises but my staff asked them to show their authorisation cards and search warrant, which they failed to produce,” Lee said at the Damansara police station.

Lee and BSM manager Sinclair Wong were taken to the Damansara police station by Jais along with the Bibles. Jais lodged a police report over the raid.

Lee and Wong were released on police bail at 4pm, but have not been told whether they will face further action.

Lee said Jais were conducting the raid under a state enactment but did not say which one. It is believed that the state enactment being used was the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

“Over the past few years, BSM has been in regular contact with Putrajaya, including Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala,” Lee said.

He said they had received assurances from Putrajaya that Malay Bibles could be imported.

“We are allowed to freely distribute the Bibles in Sabah and Sarawak without any conditions,” he said.

“As for the peninsula, as long as the Bible has a cross and the words ‘Christian publication’ on the cover, it can be freely imported and distributed to Christians.”

Lee said the legality of the Bible has been recognised by various orders issued by the home minister.

“We hope that Putrajaya and Jais will communicate with each other and resolve this issue,” Lee said.

Lee is expected to meet Jais officers on January 10 in Shah Alam to discuss the matter.

Today’s raid comes after the editor of Catholic weekly, Herald, Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said that Catholic churches in Selangor would continue to use the word “Allah” in their weekend services in Bahasa Malaysia, which are primarily attended by Sabah and Sarawak folk.

The comments came following a statement from the new director of Jais Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad, who said the state religious authorities would draw up a list of Selangor churches before writing to ask them to comply with the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

“We will write to all the churches in Selangor to respect the law that is in force in relation to this,” he was quoted as saying.

The enactment, which was passed by the then Barisan Nasional state government, prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).

Andrew’s statement caused an uproar among various non-governmental organisations, which among others, described his action as not only challenging the sensitivities of Muslims, but also a sign of disrespect for the law.

Meanwhile, Selangor religious exco Solehin Muhyi, when contacted, said he was not aware of the raid.

“I didn’t know anything until now,” he said.

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One Response to “Jais Seizes Al-Kitab, Iban Bibles; Bible Society Malaysia Officials Held”

  1. Krisis & Praxis » Blog Archive » The Beginning of Persecution of Christian Minorities in Malaysia? Says:

    […] violation of religious liberty and a deliberate affront to the dignity of the Christian community. LINK JAIS’ action suggests that a threshold in inter-religious relations has been crossed, that is, the […]

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