Malaysia

Selangor Islamic authorities raid Bible Society of Malaysia, 300 copies of Alkitab seized

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ

January 02, 2014

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, and manager, Sinclair Wong (pic), 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.