AG Says JAIS Erred In Seizing Bibles, Orders Case Closed

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail today said the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) had erred in seizing Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and ordered the case closed, bringing an end to a contentious issue, which had dragged on for the past six months.

The A-G also noted that the 321 copies of the Alkitab (Malay Bible) and Bup Kudus (Iban Bibles) were not a threat to national security.

Gani further said in a statement there would be no prosecution and appeared to have ordered JAIS to return the seized holy books to the BSM.

"On the issue of the seized Bibles, I expect JAIS to do the necessary according to the law," Gani said. He said they had reviewed the facts and statements in the investigation papers on the raid and seizure of the holy books. "We also took into consideration the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

"In conclusion, it was decided that the seized books did not run afoul of Section 9 (1) of the 1988 Enactment.

"The statements recorded made it quite clear that the seized books are Bibles in the Malay language. Gani said statements recorded from Home Ministry officials also indicated that the books did not fall under their purview and, thus, did not involve national security.

The saga of the seized Bibles began on January 2 when a JAIS team raided the BSM offices in Damansara Kim and seized 321 Malay and Iban Bibles. Then BSM president Lee Min Choon and office manager Sinclair Wong were detained and taken to the police station. They were released on bail.

Last month, Lee had said that JAIS was refusing to return the seized Bibles as to do so, would be an admission that it had erred in both deed and manner.

"Returning the Bibles will amount to an admission that JAIS was wrong in carrying out the raid and seizure and that they wrongly arrested BSM officers and they wrongly interpreted the law," Lee had said in a blog posting. He had said the return of the 321 Bibles would be a massive blow to JAIS’ image and prestige.

"Too many sins have been committed. It is better to hold on to the Bibles and tell the public that they are waiting for the A-G to say something.

"Hopefully, if they hold out long enough, everybody will forget about it," Lee said.

JAIS conducted the raid under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988, which was passed by the then-Barisan Nasional state government. It prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya'Allah” (God willing).

On April 15, Lee had announced that the BSM planned to move its operations out of Selangor to Kuala Lumpur, a federal territory, and was waiting for approval from the Registrar of Societies. Lee had said the move was necessary as Putrajaya offered better protection to religious minorities. Meanwhile, Gani, who had been accused of "dragging his feet" on this issue, today said in the statement that his office had received the investigation paper (IP) on the case for the first time on February 6. The IP was returned to JAIS on February 20 along with requests for additional information.

On February 25, the IP was once again returned to the A-G's Chambers by JAIS. Gani himself advised JAIS to refer to the Home Ministry in connection with the issue of the seized Bibles.

On June 5, JAIS once again returned the IP to the A-G's Chambers. A day before that, Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, after facing tremendous pressure from his lawmakers, said he would give the A-G one month to decide once and for all, on the status of the seized Bibles. He further said if there was no word from the A-G, he would go to Putrajaya personally and resolve the issue.

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