SHAH ALAM, April 15 — Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said today he wished the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) well on its decision to move its headquarters out to Kuala Lumpur to sidestep the state’s “Allah” ban.
Khalid declined to comment on his administration’s role leading to BSM’s exit from Selangor, choosing to highlight instead that it was duty-bound to uphold the state’s laws, when asked to comment on BSM’s apparent lack of confidence in the Selangor government’s ability to prevent a repeat of a January raid and seizure of over 300 bibles at its office.
“I have no comment on that (decision to move). I wish them all the best, that’s all I can do. Of course they are all welcome to be in Selangor, but we have to follow the laws and the enactment of the state,” he told reporters here after the state assembly sitting.
When asked whether BSM’s decision today may reflect badly on the Selangor government’s ability and willingness to uphold religious freedom, Khalid again pointed to the need to comply with existing laws.
“I think you must understand as a state, we have the laws to follow. People must believe that we respect the law and we respect the rights of everybody,” he said.
Khalid added that the Selangor government has not “interfered” with BSM, saying that the society’s decision to move out of the state was their own decision.
But he declined to say whether BSM’s decision to shift out of Selangor was “premature”, saying: “I can’t answer for them”.
"But I think we should learn from this how best we can work together, live together and prosper in a state that believes that everybody should have a fair chance," he said.
Although Khalid did not state the law that the Selangor government had to uphold, he was likely referring to the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
The 1988 enactment passed by the then-Barisan Nasional (BN) state government prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including “Allah” (God), “Nabi” (prophet) and “Injil” (gospel).
The law was used by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) on January 2 when it sent a team of 20 religious officials and police officers to raid the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)’s Selangor office, where over 300 copies of the Malay-language and Iban-language bibles containing the word “Allah” were seized.
Earlier this month, Khalid said the state government has decided not to interfere in the ongoing controversy over the seized bibles, saying that it is up to BSM to officially write to the Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to have the holy books returned.
Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong later said she had written to the AG on April 4 on behalf of the state government, asking Abdul Gani to order Jais to return the bibles.
Abdul Gani has not made an official statement on the matter.
Frustrated that the bibles have yet to be released more than three months after the raid, the BSM today said it will move its headquarters to the federal government-ruled Kuala Lumpur to get “better protection” and avoid future bible seizures by religious authorities.
BSM said it will also stop importing bibles through Selangor’s Port Klang.
It said will send the bibles through Penang or directly to east Malaysia where most of its Christian readers of the Malay-language bibles live.