by V. Anbalagan
The Malaysian Insider
January 08, 2014
Selangor’s religious authorities were wrong to seize Malay and Iban language Bibles and must return them as the ban on using the word Allah is only for the Catholic weekly Herald, say lawyers and politicians.
They said the Bible, be it in any language, was never banned in Malaysia and as such, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) had no right to seize the holy books from The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) last Thursday as the Allah issue only centred on the Herald case.
Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo Chin Hock said the Court of Appeal ruling last October that barred Herald from using the word Allah had included Bibles in the 10-point solution endorsed by the federal Cabinet in 2011.
“So Jais’s raid and seizure has no basis at all because the 10-point solution covers the holy book,” Khoo told The Malaysian Insider, referring to the agreement that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government had made with the Christian community ahead of the Sarawak state election.
The agreement arose after the Herald publishers, the Roman Catholic Church, sued the government for the right to use the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia edition.
Another Malaysian had also sought for the return of holy books that contained the word which had been seized by the Home Ministry.
Khoo said the Catholic Church had in August attempted to strike out Putrajaya’s appeal on the Herald being allowed to use the word Allah.
“The court dismissed the church’s application but in the process, the court declared the 10-point solution covered only Bibles, not newspapers,” he said.
He and other critics say the raid at the BSM went against the right to profess and practice one’s religion as stated in the Federal Constitution.
Selangor DAP chairman Tony Pua was firm that Jais must return the Bibles without any delay.
“The way the raid was conducted should not be condoned,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Pua, who is also Petaling Jaya Utara MP, said the DAP state committee met on Monday and deliberated over the issue in detail.
“We will relay our position to the state Pakatan Rakyat and hopefully everyone will come to a consensus,” he said.
DAP, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat are the loose coalition administering the Selangor state.
Lawyer Edmund Bon said BSM should take legal action against Jais for illegal entry into its premises.
He pointed out that the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propogation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 which Jais relied on, was not applicable here.
“This enactment, which makes an offence relating to the use of Islamic words and expressions, went against the Federal Constitution,” he said.
He said the constitution allowed for non-Muslim individuals and groups to profess and practice their religion unhindered.
“How does keeping the Bibles in a premises violate the enactment?” he asked.
He said Christians or the BSM cannot be accused of trying to convert Muslims just because the Bibles were stored in BSM’s premises.
Bon also said no court ruling had banned the Bible outright although the Court of Appeal decision only declared that the Home Minister was right to prohibit the use of the word Allah in the Herald.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar also said last October that the ban on the use of the word Allah only applied to the Herald, and not other Christian publications or the Alkitab, the Bahasa Malaysia Bible which is widely used in Sabah and Sarawak.
He said the Cabinet decision to allow the use of Allah in Bahasa Malaysia or native language Bibles in Sabah and Sarawak and the assurance given by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on the matter in 2011 still stood.
“Decisions made by the courts are case laws. Even though they become part of the law of the country, they are normally not enforceable.
“That means you can’t get the police or other agencies to enforce them. They are not statute laws (laws passed by Parliament),” he had said last year.
On Thursday, Jais raided the BSM and confiscated more than 300 copies of the Alkitab (Bahasa Malaysia bible) and Bup Kudus (Iban bible) and detained its president and the office manager for questioning.
The two are scheduled to meet Jais officials on Friday.
The raid was carried out after Herald editor Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew had said that the word Allah will continue to be used in churches in Selangor.
Yesterday, Andrew was questioned by the police under the Sedition Act for that statement which allegedly went against a decree issued by the Sultan of Selangor who had said that Allah cannot be used by non-Muslims in Selangor. – January 8, 2014.