Jais seizes Al-Kitab, Iban bibles; BSM officials held

Al Kitab, the Malay language version of the Bible. – Picture by Choo Choy May
Al Kitab, the Malay language version of the Bible. – Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 - Selangor Islamic authorities raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) in Petaling Jaya today and seized copies of both the Malay-language and Iban bibles that contain the word “Allah”, while three BSM officials are also being held by police.

BSM executive council member Nic Ng told The Malay Mail Online today that a team of about 20 people including police officers and officials from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) arrived at the society’s premises over an hour ago and demanded entry despite not bearing a warrant.

“I told the staff not to let them in because Jais has no authority over non-Muslims, but they insisted,” said Ng.

Ng said that the BSM workers were forced to allow the team entry after they allegedly threatened to break down the door.

“They took at least 321 copies of the Al-Kitab, which contains the word “Allah”, and they took 16 copies of the Iban bible, the Bup Kudus. In Iban, the word for God is “Allah Ta’ala.”

“Bible Society is the one that imports and prints and distributes Malay bibles to Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

Ng said that the police then told BSM president Lee Min Choon and general-secretary Dr Simon Wong to follow them to the Damansara police station.

At the police station, Lee said that he, Simon and BSM office manager Sinclair Wong were arrested under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 that prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including the word for God, “Allah”.

“We hope the federal government will liaise with Jais to resolve this issue,” Lee told reporters, citing the Najib administration’s 10-point solution that was issued in 2011.

“The agreement was that Christians will be allowed to use the Al-Kitab in East Malaysia without any conditions, while in West Malaysia, it must be stamped with an image of the cross and the words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ (Christian Publication,” he added.

The bible distributor pointed out that all of BSM’s Malay bibles are imprinted with a picture of the cross and the words “Penerbitan Kristian” on the cover and noted that the Home Ministry regularly inspects its bible shipment imports.

“The authorities know what we’re doing. They’re aware of the existence of our bibles,” said Lee.

He added that BSM’s customers are not just the churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians, Orang Asli churches and other Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula.

“We expect the authorities to work with each other and to sort this situation out so that Malay-speaking Christians in this country can read their scriptures,” said Lee.

Jais’ raid comes after its newly-appointed director, Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad, said last Thursday that letters will be sent to all churches in Selangor to ask them to comply with the Selangor 1988 enactment.

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