Isn’t religion a sacrosanct right of a community?

By P Ramakrishnan | President of Aliran

It is rather difficult to understand how our Muslim friends can be so easily influenced which may result in their straying away from their sacred religion. Any notion that this may be the case insults the intelligence and the very faith of the Muslims.

Any suggestion alluding to this possibility gives the impression that all the daily vigorous religious programmes over radio and television, the numerous courses conducted to explain and strengthen their faith in Islam, the many religious classes and the daily five-time compulsory prayers, the existence of mosques easily accessible to the faithful and the Friday sermons, are a failure. This is absolutely wrong and ridiculous.

I was a product of a mission school – so were my many Malay friends of that period. The Lord’s prayers were part of the weekly school assembly ritual. Even to this day we – Muslims and non-Muslims – remember the Lord’s prayers. In fact some of my Malay friends even say “Amen” at the end of a speech whenever our classmates meet up. This did not in any way indicate that they are not steadfast in their faith. No one has renounced their religion to embrace Christianity.

How is that, the Malays of that period – who did not have all the present intense propagation of the Muslim faith – remained faithful to Islam? How come their faith was so strong and so secure?

It is with this knowledge that I wonder what harm the Holy Bible in the national language can cause to the Muslims. Why is there so much controversy surrounding this issue?
There are so many contradictory reasons extended for the impounding of the Holy Bible. These holy books are languishing in various godowns, some as long as two years. This denial of the holy book to the Christians is indefensible.

A pertinent question is; ‘Aren’t the Christians entitled to their book of faith’? It is this book that gives meaning to their lives, regulates their conduct and determines their purpose in life. It is so essential to their well-being, it is so personal and integeral to their very existence. How can this be denied?

Many Malaysians are not only aware – but they are convinced too – that a vast majority of Muslims are tolerant, peaceful, respectful of the other, and would have no objection to other Malaysians exercising their religious rights as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. They would have no objection to the releasing of the Holy Bible because they understand the significance of these books and what they mean to the Christians.

It is the ugly politicians, desperate in their attempt to retain their power and position, who have unjustly politicized a simple issue into an unnecessary controversy that threatens our unity as a nation. This minority group is spewing fire and brimstone to agitate and frustrate our unity regardless of the harm they are causing to our multi-ethnic Malaysia.
In succumbing to these despicable political demands of this minority, the Umno leadership has become blind to justice and fairness. It has chosen to give in to this group by refusing to release the Holy Bible with the view to score political points to win over the rural Malays.

But now with the impending Sarawak elections, the Umno leadership realizes the price it has to pay for this foolhardiness. Hard reality has forced it to be somewhat sensible and realistic if it aims to cling on to political power. Without this essential support from Sarawak and Sabah, Umno and its cohorts in the Barisan Nasional will have to bid farewell to Putrajaya.

So Umno has decided to play politics by agreeing to release the Holy Bible without loss of face. That is the reason why it has to impose two ridiculous conditions for the release.
One, the importer of the copies of the holy book will have to stamp, “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of the Christians only. By order of the Home Ministry.” The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

Two, the importer has to stamp a serial number on each copy of the Holy Bible, “as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import”.

The Home Ministry has shown scant respect to these holy books and the Christian community. The ministry’s ruling is perverse and sacrilegious. Its ruling is tantamount to ordering the Christian community to desecrate their holy books. No Christian will agree to observe these absurd conditions.

The inalienable right of a community to practice its religion cannot be compromised – and should not be compromised. This is the birth-right of a community – it cannot be surrendered.

The Prime Minister must recognize this serious problem that threatens to undermine our national unity and must step in as a matter of urgency to avert this issue from exploding into a national catastrophe. He must isolate these trouble-makers and preserve our unity. He owes this to us and the nation. Any failure on his part would imply that unity is not possible without an alternative government.

Let us be reminded by the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we are going to perish together as fools.”

  1. #1 by k1980 on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 11:15 am

    Money, not religion, comes first. Tourism Ministry, truly parrayiah. Grandma NYY next, after grandpa LLS and panhandler CKC?

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 11:25 am

    The Christians and those of other non-Islamic faiths must stand firm now and get all the outstanding Islamic-non-Islamic issues resolved once and for all.

    The issues must not be swept under the carpet again but resolved permanently. Press on and be firm about it. You deserve it. Don’t be cowed by the Napoleons, big, medium or small. They must all be put in their places.

    The inter-religious council for harmony etc (or whatever it is now called) is as good as dead if one or more parties do not wish to get involved.

    Why are 1Malaysians so afraid to have dialogues? Why do some parties see themselves as superior and above others? Did Allah say so?

    The problems that we have is all due to man’s own follies on the pretext and excuse that God said so.

    Else I think the only solution is through the ballot box.

  3. #3 by jus legitimum on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 12:26 pm

    The Malay Bible controversy clearly tells us the Umnoputras are religious bigots and sheer arrogant.You can never find ‘fairness’ and ‘justice’ in their dictionary.Remember the cowhead issue,the azan issue at Pantai Dalam,and the coffin demo by mamak in Penang,why are the PDRM under their control practised double standard?They just stood by and watched them shouting racist slogans and displaying anti Chinese banners.Had the ‘mata sepet’ and ‘kaki botol’ staged just a simple and peaceful protest,they would have been treated with water bombs and cannons and arrested for no valid reasons.We can see from such instances how they treat the so called ‘pendatang’.Their 1 Malaysia slogan is just hollow and meaningless.

  4. #4 by dagen on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 12:26 pm

    Yes but only islam jenis-umno. There rest arent!

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 1:17 pm

    Possessing a BM bible is like possessing a doggie mah, got 2 hv a doggie license lor
    UmnoB believe Muslims r fragile, 2 b handled with care n not mind polluted by BM bible
    Read/hear a few Christian words, some Muslims will give up their religion n convert
    So, must protect Muslims fr d evil book, chop chop, stamp stamp lor

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 1:24 pm

  7. #7 by DAP_VICTORY on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 2:10 pm


  8. #8 by Dipoh Bous on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 6:52 pm

    A prominent mufti has expressed his fear that the muslims anger would explode after the gov’t has agreed to release the seized bibles !

    Many of my muslim friends are also surprised by such remarks. I believe it’s the work of such people in authority that has caused the present huhas. I won’t be surprised if they start to incite their followers to do stupid things.

    Being neutral in this issue ( I am an atheist ) I am saddened to note that religion has always been exploited.

  9. #9 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 11:49 pm

    Mr. Ramakrishnan,

    I agree wholeheartedly to your piece. I never cease to be amazed at the stupidity of our Home Minister. He shoots himself in the foot, waves his hands around like some fool trying to conduct an orchestra, has all his tastebuds warped (“smelly Bibles”, so it seems) and has his forked tongue twisted all in ridiculous knots.

    Silly, sad, stupid spectacle.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 12:54 am

    Yeah, Christians must thank n kowtow 2 Hisap mud din 4 not throwing away d smelly busuk mouldy BM bibles, but releasing them – Please release us let us go ………..

  11. #11 by k1980 on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 10:39 am

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 3:33 pm

    Want the ugly truth? The way article 121 is now, the likes of Perkasa think the answer is NO but they won’t admit it. The truth is their believe is that their religion is superior to all others and if its practises bumps into other religion – its got to go and follow its hegemonistic march..

  13. #13 by Malaysian Sun on Sunday, 20 March 2011 - 7:14 am

    The present UMNO government is trying to get political mileage through this method of divide and rule.

    The more they practice this strategy, the more they expose their evil intention.

    Let all peace loving Malaysians come together whether we are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus etc to give a strong message to this present regime that enough is enough..we want to go on with our lives to prosper together, to find ways to make Malaysia a high income economy and to be God fearing…this message can only be translated into Votes and boot out our incompetent political leadership who have the ‘divide and rule’ mindset to remain in power…to them is MyPower first….and Rakyat last.

You must be logged in to post a comment.