In response to Lee Min Choon’s press statement — Stephen Ng

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APRIL 3 — The raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) on January 2 should not be turned into a game of ‘who gets more brownie points.’

There is no question that the raid has already raised an eyebrow for the entire nation as well as the international Christian community, who have been praying for sanity to return to the politics of this nation.

The Christian community in Malaysia generally feel that their constitutional rights have been encroached upon, especially since the name “Allah” is used reverently in worship services by Malay-speaking Christians, and the name was never used in the context of propagation of Christianity to the Muslims.

In fact, both Pakatan leaders, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former menteri besar of Kelantan, “Tok Guru” Nik Aziz Nik Mat had consistently stated that they are not opposed to Christians using the name “Allah.” This is also the view of Islamic scholars from around the world.

What transpired?

As a Christian who has been supporting the Borneo Society of Malaysia (BSM) for many years, I have been following closely on the development since the raid.

We have seen in the lead up to the 13th General Election how certain quarters, in order to stay in power, have the tendency to play up both racial and religious issues to gain points.

I have also made a number of enquiries to find out exactly who had instructed the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) to carry out the raid.

In the aftermath of the raid, Selangor State Exco in charge of Islamic Affairs, Sallehin Mukhyi immediately denied knowing about the raid; in fact, it all happened at a time when several of the State Exco were away for their holidays.

The menteri besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was also not in the loop when the raid took place. The Exco was caught by surprise.

After the wild goose chase, finally the “culprit” was obvious, in my opinion, or else why would the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (MAIS) take up half-a-page of an advertisement in The Star newspaper to state its stand?

In subsequent articles, there was also the claim by MAIS chief that the Selangor government has no authority over JAIS and the chairperson, Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa literally shot down the state government’s proposal to amend the body’s standard operating procedure (SOP).

I quote from The Malay Mail Online: “Jais is under Mais, which is also headed by the Selangor Sultan as the state Islamic chief. The state government has no say over Jais’s enforcement activities.”

In another article, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad “called on Mohd Adzib to prove that the council was not plotting to oust Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.”

Unique situation

To understand the background, JAIS is in a very unique position. It is a state government department, yet it has a direct reporting line to MAIS and the Sultan of Selangor, who is the Head of Islam in the State.

Because their salaries are paid by the State Government, this became the basis for the menteri besar and the State Exco to establish the new the SOP to inform the Exco before any raid is carried out.

Thereafter, JAIS did not carry out further raids on Christian organisations in Selangor, such as the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) and others which use any of the 30 banned Islamic words, where “Injil” is one of the banned words.

As a concerned Christian, I had personally met up with the Executive Committee of the BSM to see how best to resolve the issue, since we all were aware of the background of the raid. Lee Min Choon, the executive chairman of BSM, was also at the same meeting.

It was clearly communicated to Lee and the Exco during the meeting that the tussles involving the Selangor State Government and MAIS had to be handled with care, especially since the Sultan is the head of Islam in the state and JAIS was insistent that it had a case against the BSM.

It was also explained to Lee and the BSM Exco that since the Alkitab was imported, based on the 10-point solution, which the Federal Government has since rescinded, the best solution now was to turn the table around on the plot designed to destabilise the Pakatan government in Selangor.

The Lord Jesus, when he was facing similar tricky situations, had also used the same approach to counter his adversaries.

Earlier, in a newspaper report, a State Exco member had unequivocally stated that JAIS should return the Alkitab to BSM, but JAIS was in a difficult situation because it is also answerable to MAIS and the Sultan.

In my opinion, to refer the matter to the Attorney-General’s Office (A-G) was therefore the best way to deal with the issue so that it would backfire on the culprits behind the raid, and that such similar acts will not happen again.

Lee, however, said that the BSM was contemplating to shift out of Selangor which, of course, is not going to help solve the real issue although he was partly correct that the Selangor State Government should protect its citizens.

For Lee to now revert and allege the Selangor State Government of passing the buck to the Federal Government, I think it is unbecoming and truly shocking!

Return the Alkitab

To put the record straight, it was the A-G, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail who advised JAIS on the two options — “whether to press charges against BSM for using the word “Allah” in the 300 Malay-and Iban-language bibles and whether the books should be returned to them.”

This is the basis for Sallehin’s optimism that the Alkitab will be returned to the BSM soon.

After all, copies of the Alkitab were lying around in the office and storeroom of the Bible Society when the raid was carried out. They were not used to propagate the Christian faith to the Muslims.

Lee also took cognizance that, when the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment was passed in 1988, it was meant to be read within the context of an act of propagation of other religions to the Muslims.

For this, three state assemblymen, Yeo Bee Yin, Rajiv Rishyakaran, and Lau Weng San have stated that they would propose to amend the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 to ensure that Muslims continue to be protected from propagation, while ensuring that the rights of non-Muslims are protected as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

This would ensure the peaceful co-existence between Malaysians from diverse race and religious backgrounds, which I thought was the best solution for now so that religion should no longer be dragged into the political arena.

As I mentioned time and again, the physical copies of the Alkitab is not the real issue, because the entire Alkitab with the name Allah, as well as other versions of the Bible in different languages, can be obtained online by surfing www.youversion.com

It is the nature of our politics that is the core issue: our tendencies to play up the 3Rs – Race, Religion and Royalty. The nation is torn apart because politicians want to cling on to power, and they do not care what happens to the rakyat.

In my opinion, the Alkitab should be returned and the episode be closed, because it has caused too many sleepless nights for the Christian community.

* Stephen Ng reads The Malay Mail Online.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

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