Malaysia

Under fire, Perkasa says bible-burning threat meant to prevent violence

By Clara Chooi
Assistant News Editor

January 24, 2013

Syed Hassan said Ibrahim was not worried about the police reports lodged against him. — File picSyed Hassan said Ibrahim was not worried about the police reports lodged against him. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 ― Despite facing heat for Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s bible-burning remark, Malay rights group Perkasa have insisted their president’s words were actually a “wake-up call” to prevent possible violence against distributors of bibles containing the word “Allah” and other Arabic scripts.

The group’s secretary-general, Syed Hassan Syed Ali, said Ibrahim has no problem facing the consequences of his remarks, including being questioned by the police due to the reports lodged against him.

“To the Perkasa president, he is sure not worried about these reports... because the investigation will surely be based on truth and justice,” he said in a statement sent to The Malaysian Insider.

But Syed Hassan maintained that Ibrahim’s statement was more to prevent possible physical violence and other untoward incidents, should these Malay-language bibles get into the hands of Muslim students.

If this is seen by Muslims who view this as an attempt at apostasy, the Perkasa leader said violence could be used against the book’s distributor.

“I very much understand my president’s statement because it is as a ‘wake-up call’ to all parties to prevent these untoward incidents.

“This is what the president fears because then there would be a physical attack between those of different faiths... this is not good for the nation,” he said.

Syed Hassan also confirmed that Ibrahim has been contacted by the police over the reports lodged against the latter by several parties, including DAP chairman Karpal Singh.

Investigations will commence in another day or two, he added.

Karpal lodged the report on Tuesday in a bid to press Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to kickstart an investigation against Ibrahim, who came under fire after making the remarks in Penang over the weekend.

The fiery Malay rights leader had called on Muslims to burn Malay language bibles that contain the words “Allah” and other religious Arabic scripts should it come into their possession.

But when continuing his defence of Ibrahim’s remarks here, Syed Hassan said that Perkasa has never in the past attacked Christianity.

He said the group was merely protecting Islam and its position, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, and this includes rejecting those who insult the religion and who try to spread their own faiths to Muslims.

“Before this, all other races lived in peace. But today, simply because there are parties using this for political expediency, they are willing to flare the sentiments of others,” he said.

Ibrahim’s remarks had immediately sparked furore among Christians and politicians across the political divide and invited calls on the government to cite Ibrahim for sedition.

Barisan Nasional (BN) component party MIC also took offence to Ibrahim’s remarks and urged the government to take stern action against the fiery leader.

Joining the chorus of disapproval, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said yesterday that although the Bar still maintains that the Sedition Act should be repealed, it must be impartially applied against Ibrahim given that authorities have charged opposition leaders under the same Act.

In a statement here, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng, described the threat an “unfortunate proposal” but reminded Malaysians to be moderate in their responses to the threat.

“This unfortunate proposal to burn Malay Bibles containing the word ‘Allah’ serves as a serious reminder to all Malaysians to be more measured in our responses, the next time we hear of some unreasonable people in the West wanting to burn other people’s Scriptures, because we too have our fair share of unreasonable people,” he said.

The “Allah” dispute, which first erupted after the watershed Election 2008, remains a hot-button topic in the run-up to this year’s polls.

Debate resurfaced last month after DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is also the Penang Chief Minister, called on Putrajaya in his Christmas message to lift a ban on Malay-language bibles in Borneo Malaysia.

Hot on the heels of the DAP leader’s remarks, several state Rulers and Islamic religious authorities reminded non-Muslims of state laws banning use of the word, despite conflicting with a 2009 High Court judgment that ruled “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam.