Malaysia

Bible Society of Malaysia president calls for calm following Jais raid

Bible Society of Malaysia president Lee Min Choon has been detained at the Damansara police station in Petaling Jaya, following a raid on the society's premises. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, January 2, 2014.Bible Society of Malaysia president Lee Min Choon has been detained at the Damansara police station in Petaling Jaya, following a raid on the society's premises. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, January 2, 2014.The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) president Lee Min Choon has called on the Christian community to remain calm following the raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raid on its premises this afternoon and his detention.

A team of officers from Jais and two policemen went to the BSM offices in Damansara Kim 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.

"I arrived shortly and a few of the officers were behaving in an aggressive manner. To defuse the situation, I allowed the officers to enter the premises."

Lee said the officers seized 16 boxes containing 320 copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban.

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 any charges or proceedings will be taken against them.

Lee said the Jais officers were merely doing their job and called on the Christians to remain calm. He said they were conducting the raid under a state enactment but did not say which. It is believed it was under 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 the Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala."

Lee 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 hold talks on the issue.

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 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 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. – January 2, 2014.

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