Selangor orders conditional return of seized Malay, Iban bibles

Undated file photo shows the Bible Society of Malaysia shop closed for a stock check. Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said January 8, 2014 that the state government will order the return of the 300 copies of the bible seized by JAIS. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Undated file photo shows the Bible Society of Malaysia shop closed for a stock check. Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said January 8, 2014 that the state government will order the return of the 300 copies of the bible seized by JAIS. — Picture by Choo Choy May

SHAH ALAM, Jan 8 — Selangor will order its state Islamic religious department to return the 300 bibles confiscated from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) if the scriptures containing the word “Allah” complied with the federal government’s 10-point solution, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said today.

However, Khalid did not provide a timeline for the action to be carried out, raising more questions over the apparent conflict between the 10-point solution and a 1988 state law banning non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”.

Speaking for the first time since last Thursday’s raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), the mentri besar said the state agency has been ordered to first check with the Home Ministry whether the bibles in the Malay and Iban languages fulfilled the conditions stated in the 10-point deal mooted in 2011.

“If KDN is satisfied that these bibles fulfil the 10-point resolution, the state government will order Jais to return these bibles to the Bible Society of Malaysia,” he told a news conference here, referring to the Home Ministry by its Malay initials.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet’s had introduced a 10-point solution three years ago that allows the Christian community to print, import and distribute the bibles in Malay and other indigenous languages within the country, with certain conditions imposed in Peninsular Malaysia.

BSM has said it has complied with all the conditions in the 10-point deal, with the bible distributor saying that its customers are not just limited to the churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also includes Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians, Orang Asli churches and other Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula.

The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988, passed by the then Barisan Nasional state government, prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).

He also denied his Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government was attempting to override a royal decree that forbids non-Muslims in Selangor the right to use “Allah”.

“No, we continue the Sultan’s decree,” Khalid said, when asked if his administration supported the Selangor sultan’s decree.

Khalid said the state government was only following the Selangor law, and pointed out that distribution and import of bibles must receive the Home Ministry’s approval.

The second-term mentri besar however was unclear when asked the status of the bibles containing the Arabic word for God in Selangor, saying only the state will explain the 1988 enactment to non-Muslim religious leaders.

He appeared to suggest the bibles could be allowed in the state if it was merely for storage purposes.

“Most importantly, that’s why [when] we explain about the enactment, we will advise maybe to not use these bibles in Selangor, but to be used elsewhere.

“That’s why we will let them know, if they keep and don’t use, it’s okay. But if they use, they can use it anywhere else they want,” Khalid said.

Selangor is also home to Port Klang, the country’s main shipping hub and the entry point for the bulk of imports.

In 2009, the Home Ministry had impounded a shipment of 5,000 Malay-language bibles imported from Indonesia from the port.

The shipment, said to cost RM70,000, was released to its importer, BSM, two years later after the Najib administration stepped in.

However, BSM claimed the bibles had been desecrated after the ministry had stamped and serialised each copy of the Christian holy books.

“The 5,000 copies of the Alkitab that has been defaced by KDN cannot be sold to Christian buyers.

“Instead, they will be respectfully preserved as museum pieces and as a heritage for the Christian Church in Malaysia,” the BSM said in a statement on March 30, 2011.

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