Selangor tells BSM to seek bibles’ return on its own

The Selangor government decided not to interfere in the controversy over the bible seizure by advising the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) to write to the Attorney-General. — Picture by Choo Choy May
The Selangor government decided not to interfere in the controversy over the bible seizure by advising the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) to write to the Attorney-General. — Picture by Choo Choy May

SHAH ALAM, April 2 — The Selangor government has decided not to interfere in the ongoing controversy over 300 seized bibles, and said today the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) would have to write an official letter to the Attorney-General if it wants the holy books returned.

State Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said the state government’s decision was reached during the state executive council meeting this afternoon.

“It has been decided that BSM should write to the A-G to ask for their bibles back,” Khalid told reporters here.

He added that the onus was entirely on BSM, and that they “needed to show their determination and desire” in getting back the Malay-and Iban-language bibles.

The Malay Mail Online previously reported that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) is expected to return “most” of the bibles seized three months ago from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) but may keep a few for further investigation,

Sallehen Mukhyi, who is in charge of Islamic Affairs in Selangor had said Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was advising Jais on two matters — whether to press charges against BSM for using the word “Allah” in the 300 bibles and whether the books should be returned to them.

Jais enforcers had seized over 300 Malay- and Iban-language bibles from the BSM on January 2 on suspicion the Christian holy books were being used to convert Muslims.

A 1988 state enactment prohibits non-Muslims from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faiths, including “Allah” as part of measures to control the propagation of other religions to Muslims.

BSM has said that they distribute most of their Malay-language bibles to churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also cater to Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula, including the Orang Asli and those who come from East Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that Putrajaya’s 10-point solution on the row over the Arabic word for God is subject to existing state and federal laws.

Besides Selangor, nine other states have similar enactments banning non-Muslim usage of “Allah” and other Arabic words, except Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territories.

Lawyers have denounced the Selangor 1988 enactment that prohibits non-Muslims from calling God “Allah” as unconstitutional.

The Najib administration’s 10-point solution — which was mooted shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011 to resolve the seizure of a consignment of the Al-Kitab — allows for bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be printed, imported and distributed freely in Sabah and Sarawak.

But in the peninsula, the holy books must be stamped to indicate that they are a Christian publication.

Point nine of the 10-point solution, however, states that the federal government’s commitment in working with Christian groups will take into account the relevant laws in the country.

Last month, the Federal Court postponed indefinitely a decision on whether it will allow the Catholic Church to appeal a lower court ruling preventing its newspaper The Herald from using the word “Allah” to refer to God.