Jais should return seized Bibles: Anwar

The opposition leader said he disagreed with the “high-handed” way in which Jais confiscated the bibles, adding that Islamic religious authorities could have addressed the issue in a better way.

Malaysia
Jan 17 2014, 3:25 PM
Jais should return seized Bibles: Anwar
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) should return 300 bibles in Malay and Iban languages seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) two weeks ago, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday at a press conference at the PKR headquarters.

Two BSM officials were arrested in the raid seen as being triggered by Catholic weekly Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew’s remark that churches in Selangor would continue to use "Allah" in their Bahasa Malaysia services. Lawrence is being investigated by the police and he may be charged with sedition.

The opposition leader said he disagreed with the “high-handed” way in which Jais confiscated the bibles, adding that Islamic religious authorities could have addressed the issue in a better way.

Anwar said the department's conduct was "very dangerous" as it failed to respect the sensitivities of other religions. Jais had defended its actions, saying that it was in line with the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988 (Control of Propagation Among Muslims), a law which prohibits non-Muslims in the state from using the word "Allah" and 34 other Arabic words.

Reiterating Pakatan Rakyat's 2010 stand that the term is not exclusive to Muslims, Anwar acknowledged the religious dispute is a grave concern among Muslims in rural Malaysia and reiterated his call for the ruling Barisan Nasional pact to have a dialogue with his opposition coalition to find solutions to cool down the raging controversy.

He said that there is a need to work harder to make the Muslims understand that it was not an international Christian design to confuse them.

The tussle over the word "Allah" arose in 2008 when Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic Church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in December 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so. The Court of Appeal overturned it in October in Government’s favour and ruled that "Allah" was not integral to the Christian faith.

In the run-up to 2014 elections, tensions flared again over the use of the Arabic word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Critics have claimed that the entire controversy was an attempt to deflate attention from the country’s economic problems such as the rising cost of living due to price hikes and subsidy cuts.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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