KLANG, Jan 2 — Leaders from a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups lauded the Selangor religious authority’s move today to raid the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and seize copies of Malay-language and Iban bibles.
Describing the move as “pro-active”, the Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat even urged the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) to conduct more more raids and bible seizures to curb the use of the word “Allah” by Christians.
“This was a good move, we support it ... It should proceed to other churches. I am confident that there have been many distributed to churches and there are some now in the hands of individuals and students,” said Mohd Khairi Hussein, the chairman of the secretariat, referring to the Malay-language bibles, which are also called al-Kitab.
“The move should continue and [be] publicised around Selangor so it will be more effective,” added Mohd Khairi, who is also the Kapar Umno religious bureau chief.
Jalur Tiga Malaysia (Jati) secretary-general Norman Toha told The Malay Mail Online that Jais was acting within its powers to enforce the Selangor Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
“This is one of the pre-emptive action, proactive, done by Jais enforcers after the Sultan of Selangor decreed that it is a serious issue. Don’t wait until this causes problems, turmoil and chaos,” said Norman.
The deputy chief of the Klang chapter of Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) Mohd Fathan Hussin also agreed with Norman, and accused churches of breaking the law by keeping the Malay-language bibles.
“They deserve it, because it is againt the law ... What for (are they keeping the bibles)? It is Jais’ right to seize banned books,” Mohd Fathan added.
BSM executive council member Nic Ng told The Malay Mail Online earlier today that a team of about 20 people including police officers and officials from Jais arrived at the society’s premises over an hour ago and demanded entry despite not bearing a warrant.
Ng said the police then told BSM president Lee Min Choon and general-secretary Dr Simon Wong to follow them to the Damansara police station.
The coalition, which also included Selangor Perkasa and Pertubuhan Ikatan Kebajikan dan Dakwah Selangor (IKDDAS) among others, announced today that they will hold a rally in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang this Sunday.
It has called for Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic Church’s weekly paper, Herald, to apologise over his remark insisting on the religion’s use of “Allah”.
Another rally has also been planned by Selangor Umno on the same day, which is expected to be at the Metro Tabernacle Church in Taman Samudera, Gombak.
The tussle over “Allah” arose in 2008 when Catholic newspaper 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.
Despite the ban, the effects have not intruded directly into the everyday worship of Christians; it has so far been limited to a prohibition against the Herald printing the word, and the seizure of Christian religious materials, including the Al-Kitab Malay-language bibles and compact discs that contain the word “Allah”.
The shipments of the Al-Kitab were subsequently released but the compact discs have yet to be returned to its owner who has filed a lawsuit against the government.
The Catholic Church has since appealed to the country’s top court for clarity on the religious row that has drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s non-Muslim minorities and its 60 per cent Muslim population.