KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 ― The latest seizure of hundreds of Christian books and CDs at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (klia2) shows that last year's court ruling on the “Allah” issue affects Christians nationwide, DAP lawmaker Dr Ong Kian Ming said.
The Serdang MP said with the seizure, Putrajaya's repeated assurance that the ruling only applies to Catholic weekly The Herald and that the federal Cabinet's 2011 10-point solution protects Christians in east Malaysia from the ban on the use of “Allah” has proven to be “completely undependable and unreliable”.
“The confiscation... once again shows that the Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have no assurance that bibles printed in Indonesia and imported to Malaysia through KLIA or any other airport will not be confiscated by the federal authorities as a result of the Court of Appeal ruling on the use of the word Allah as ‘not being an integral part’ of the Christian faith,” he said in a statement here.
The confiscation also shows Putrajaya's “failure” to uphold the constitutional right of Malaysian Christians to freedom of religion, as stipulated in Article 11(1) of the country's highest law, he said.
“It also shows the failure of the federal government in trying to keep up the pretence of having an inconsistent promise of ‘one country, two systems’... when it comes to something as fundamental as our constitutional rights to practice our religion freely,” Ong said.
Sources confirmed with Malay Mail Online yesterday that hundreds of Christian compact discs (CDs) and books containing the word “Allah” were confiscated at the Kuala Lumpur International 2 airport in Sepang last Saturday.
The items were believed to be the personal belongings of a Christian man who had brought them in from Medan, Indonesia, and was on his way back to Sabah where he resides.
The sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that the Protestant church in Sabah that the man attends is attempting to negotiate with the Home Ministry for the return of the books and the CDs.
The seizure of the Christian materials that describe God as “Allah”, an Arabic word which Malaysian Muslims deem exclusive to Islam, is the latest to demonstrate the unresolved quandary stemming from regulatory prohibitions against non-Muslim use of the word in the peninsula but not in Sabah and Sarawak.
The inconsistent rules previously caused over 2,000 copies of the Catholic weekly, The Herald, to be confiscated at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport a year ago on October 25.
The Home Ministry released the shipment two days later.
Much of the issue stems from the Catholic Church’s 2008 challenge against the Home Ministry for prohibiting its use of “Allah” in the Herald. The case came to an end when the Federal Court declined in June to hear the Catholic Church’s appeal against an appellate court decision upholding the ban.
The Federal Court’s decision rendered last year’s Court of Appeal ruling the authority in the issue, which triggered concern as the judges had then given their opinion that “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith.
Although Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria later clarified that the opinion was non-binding on future cases, the effects of the appellate court ruling continue to be seen in existing cases and incidents.
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.
The Bumiputera Christian had brought in the CDs from Indonesia for personal use.
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.
Ong today urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to immediately order the release of all the Christian materials confiscated last Saturday and stop the Home Ministry from appealing the High Court decision in the Jill Ireland case
“The failure to do so would only confirm that the Prime Minister is a ‘toothless tiger’ who is incapable of ensuring that his own ministers implement the Prime Minister’s promises to the people,” he said.