KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The Bible Society of Malaysia is fighting to prevent the destruction by the federal government of 5,000 copies of “Al-Kitab: Berita Baik,” a Malay-language Christian bible, in the latest controversy which could have a bearing on this Sunday’s Sibu by-election.
The BSM has appealed to the Home Ministry not to destroy the bibles, which were seized in Port Klang on March 20 last year, but it may already be too late.
Its president, Lee Min Choon, said the society was informed in a letter from the Home Ministry Publication Control and Al-Quran text department, dated March 3, 2010, that the bibles would be destroyed within 30 days.
“We have since sent an appeal to the Home Ministry and the prime minister but our copies still have not been released,” Lee said.
The controversy comes as campaigning for this Sunday’s Sibu vote heads into the final lap.
The majority of voters there are Christians and the issue may have an impact on the contest between Barisan Nasional’s (BN) SUPP and Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) DAP.
Lee said today the copies of the Bahasa Malaysia-version of the Christian bible were imported from Indonesia and meant for Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians in the country.
However, Home Ministry Publication Control and Al-Quran text department deputy secretary Abdul Razak Abdul Latif told The Malaysain Insider that he was uncertain about the “status” of the bibles, since the letter issued by the ministry was dated March 3 and 30 days has since lapsed.
“But the importers can still write to us and if the bibles have not been disposed off, we can arrange for the copies to be returned to the country of origin.”
He added that the bibles were not seized but only barred from being imported into the country.
“We never seized the bibles and we don’t want to keep them.”
Police have already issued a ban against politicians raising the issue about the restriction on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, during campaigning for the Sibu vote.
The ban has been criticised by the DAP, which has been campaigning heavily in Christian churches.
Meanwhile, Lee pointed out that the society had been appealing to the Home Ministry to release the bibles since they were seized last year but their pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
Lee said the society was issuing the statement to clarify an article in the New Straits Times on May 12, which indicated that impounded bibles had been released.
“We understand the government has ordered the release of 10,000 copies of Al-Kitab, imported by another agency, that was impounded in Kuching. We hope the Government will release our 5,000 copies,” he concluded.