KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Rivals DAP and MCA charged the federal government today with violating the constitutional right to freedom of religion of Christians for having seized 35,000 Malay-language Bibles.
“Depriving them of their holy scriptures is unconstitutional and clearly exposes the hype of 1 Malaysia is just mere rhetoric and propaganda,” DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said today.
He added that it has been the longstanding practice of non-Muslim Bumiputeras and east Malaysians to learn and practise Christianity in the national language, as is their right under Article 11 of the federal constitution which protects the right to profess and practise one’s own religion.
The Home Ministry’s move to hold the Bibles worth RM78,000 in the ports of Klang and Kuching has angered Christians in Malaysia.
They have lashed out at the federal government for what they see as a systematic move to deny their religious rights enshrined in the country’s highest law.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), which represents 90 per cent of churches here, demanded yesterday that the government immediately release all Bibles detained.
“Further prohibiting the Bible just because it is in Bahasa Malaysia is also contrary to the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language,” said Lim, who is also Bagan MP.
The Penang chief minister added that the Bibles posed no threat to other religions or to the peace and harmony of the country.
The MCA also agreed that “any restraint on the use of the Bible in the national language is tantamount to taking away non-Muslims’ right to practise one’s faith.”
President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek suggested that Malay-language Bibles be printed locally by government-approved printers so that it can be circulated to churches here with proper supervision so that it will not be used as a political issue during the Sarawak election campaign.
Sarawak must dissolve its state assembly by July with polls widely expected to be called next month.
At present, the Bibles are printed in Indonesia and the churches have to import them to Malaysia.
Malaysian Christians make up close to 10 per cent of the 28 million population, with the biggest numbers based in Sarawak and Sabah, where the main language used by the Bumiputeras in churches is Bahasa Malaysia.