'Little Napoleons' in civil service may have misinterpreted 'Allah' issue, Najib admits

The Bible debacle has been attributed to the presence of 'little Napoleons' within the civil service, November 16, 2014. – Picture by Choo Choy May
The Bible debacle has been attributed to the presence of 'little Napoleons' within the civil service, November 16, 2014. – Picture by Choo Choy May

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KOTA KINABALU, Nov 16 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak reaffirmed his Putrajaya’s commitment today to the 10-point solution on the “Allah” controversy, but admitted that there may be “little Napoleons” in the civil service who have misinterpreted the government’s formal position on the matter.

As per the 10-point deal mooted by his Cabinet in 2011, the prime minister pointed out that in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, Christian bibles of any language are permitted for distribution without restrictions.

“If there are glitches, like the recent seizure by the Customs department in Klia2 - we return them to their rightful owner... this is our commitment.

“I don’t deny there may be some ‘little Napoleons’ who have different interpretations - they don’t understand the court decision... it doesn’t touch on the rights of Christians in Sabah,” he said in his speech at the Parti Bersatu Sabah(PBS) congress here today.

Najib pledged his government’s commitment to protect the right of individuals to freedom of religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, and said in relevant matters, his administration will refer other binding agreements like the 20-point Sabah agreement and the 10-point deal.

According to the federal Cabinet’s 10-point solution, the authorities cannot place “prohibitions and restrictions for people who bring along their bibles and Christian materials” when travelling between Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

The 10-point solution also allowed 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”.

The deal was mooted by the Najib Cabinet in 2011 to resolve the controversy over Christian use of the word “Allah” in their holy texts.

But despite the deal, a Sabahan Christian’s religious compact discs (CDs) and books were confiscated last month at the second Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Klia2).

Unity Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup immediately stepped in, however, and negotiated a return of the Christian materials to their owner, after it was established that they were bound for Sabah.

After the Christian materials were returned last week, the minister said Putrajaya will draw up new guidelines to ensure that such materials destined for Sabah and Sarawak are no longer wrongfully seized.

In another case, eight CDs containing the word “Allah” were confiscated from a Sarawakian Christian called Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal airport in Sepang in 2008.

Although the High Court here ruled last July that the Home Ministry was wrong to detain the CDs and ordered their return, the government has insisted on holding on to the items pending an appeal against the decision.

The “Allah” issue also continues to disturb the Christian Bumiputera communities who typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their holy scriptures and religious practices.

Over 60 per cent of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is “Allah”.

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