Non-Muslim group welcomes Anwar’s call to return seized Bibles

Jagir Singh hoped the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) will heed Anwar’s call to return the Bibles seized.

Malaysia
Jan 17 2014, 3:39 PM
Non-Muslim group welcomes Anwar’s call to return seized Bibles
Jagir Singh, President of MCCBCHST.

President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Jagir Singh, has welcomed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s stand on the religious controversy in the country.

Anwar Ibrahim had disapproved of the "high-handed" manner in which Jais raided the Bible Society of Malaysia premises and confiscated some 300 Malay and Iban Bibles.

Singh hoped the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) will heed Anwar’s call to return the Bibles seized. "I hope Jais will return them immediately as MCCBCHST's stand is that the raid and seizure 14 days ago was unlawful," he said.

However, Anwar's stand contrasted with MCCBCHST on Jais's right to question, investigate and call up people for clarification. Singh said the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land, allows for freedom of religion and propagation of one's faith within the community.

As such, he said 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, was against the provision in the constitution. Jais, however, had defended its actions, saying that it was in line with the enactment.

Although global Islamic scholars have clarified that the term can be used by anyone, state Islamic authorities in Malaysia have reacted negatively to reports of churches using the word "Allah" in services and literature catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian community.

The tussle over the word "Allah" arose in 2008 when Christian weekly Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic Church 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.

Christians make up about 9% or 2.6 million, of the Malaysian population. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including referring to God as "Allah" in their prayers and holy book. Besides the Bumiputera Christians from East Malaysia, Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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