AG says no charges to be made in Bible seizure case

Malaysia’s Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail says the case in which religious authorities seized 321 bibles from a Christian group because the books contained the word Allah to refer to God, is now closed. ― File pic
Malaysia’s Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail says the case in which religious authorities seized 321 bibles from a Christian group because the books contained the word Allah to refer to God, is now closed. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 ― Malaysia’s Attorney-General (AG) said today there will be no charges in the case in which religious authorities seized 321 bibles from a Christian group because the books contained the word “Allah” to refer to God.

“There is no prosecution to be carried out. The case is now closed,” Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said in a statement today.

The books were seized from the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia on January 2.

“The Attorney-General's office has looked at the facts and statements in the investigation paper with regards to the seizure of the books and has taken into consideration laws under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988,” the statement added.

Abdul Gani added that investigation papers showed that the seized books were essentially Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia, and that the “Al-Kitab Berita Baik” contained materials from the Bible, Torah and Psalms.

The statement pointed out that the seized items were not “controlled items” and that it was not a national security issue.

The AG said that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) would take the “next step” in accordance with the law.

It remains unclear what this step might be.

The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 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 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.

The raid came after a court ruled in October that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are Malays, the majority ethnic group in the country.

That ruling overturned a court decision that allowed a Roman Catholic newspaper printed in Bahasa Malaysia to use the word Allah.

The seizure heightened concerns that religious authorities, which issue rulings for Muslims and operate alongside conventional courts, now have more legal muscle.

BSM said in April 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 it will send the bibles through Penang or directly to east Malaysia where most Christians who prefer Malay-language bibles live.

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