SHAH ALAM, April 15 — The Selangor government has no plans to amend a controversial state law that was used by a state religious department to seize bibles from a bible distributor, Datuk Teng Chang Khim said today.
Teng, a state executive council member, said the three DAP state lawmakers who mooted to amend the state law could go ahead and table the changes at the state assembly.
“If they feel they want to amend it, they should put up their private member’s bill. As far as the state government is concerned, we do not have that in the plan,” the Sungai Pinang assemblyman told reporters at the Selangor legislative assembly here.
“As elected members of the House, they have the power under the law to table private member’s bill if they think that is necessary,” the DAP leader added.
Teng was asked to comment on the January proposal by three DAP lawmakers — representing Bukit Gasing, Damansara Utama and Kampung Tunku respectively — to amend 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”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).
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.
When contacted, Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lau Weng San told The Malay Mail Online the “time is high and ripe” for a review of the 1988 Selangor law “inherited” from BN, later adding that the state exco was “aware” of the trio’s amendment proposal.
When asked if the trio would push through the amendments through a private member’s bill, Lau noted that such a move may result in the 1988 state enactment not being changed at all.
“Are we going to table it for the sake of tabling or tabling it to get it passed? I think the most important thing is to get something done,” he said, indicating that he had no plans to table a private member’s bill.
He explained that there would be a higher chance of success if a bill is tabled by the Selangor exco itself, as the support of other state lawmakers to vote in favour of the amendment could be obtained more easily.
Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran merely confirmed in a text message that he had previously made the proposal, but did not respond to further queries.
The Malay Mail Online’s efforts to reach Damansara Utama assemblyman Yeo Bee Yin for comments was unsuccessful.
Lau, Rajiv and Yeo had previously said the 1988 enactment contradicted Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.
The trio wanted to amend the 1988 law to ensure its consistency with the Constitution while still providing the necessary safeguards against proselytisation to Muslims.
They were later chastised by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) de facto chief, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for their haste in issuing the statement just a day after the January 2 suprise raid by Jais on BSM’s Selangor office.
When asked about the three DAP state lawmakers’ previous proposal to amend the 1988 state law, Khalid merely said today that “matters of amending the law is a very serious issue”.
“I think from a political point of view, it should only be discussed for example for us at Majlis Tertinggi Pakatan Rakyat,” he told reporters, using the Malay name for the Pakatan Rakyat Supreme Council.
Khalid did not elaborate.