CLS Press Statement: AG Must Act Against Ibrahim Ali's call To Burn Malay Bible

The Catholic Lawyers’ Society, Kuala Lumpur (CLS) is deeply disappointed that the Attorney General (AG) will not prosecute Datuk Ibrahim Ali for his calls to the Muslims to seize and burn the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Holy Bibles on the basis that the latter was only defending the sanctity of Islam.

The Federal Government has echoed similar statements through Nancy Shukri, de facto Minister of Law in parliament on October 7, 2014.

With respect, both the AG and the Federal Government has done a disservice to the people of Malaysia. By condoning the AG’s decision not to prosecute Datuk Ibrahim Ali, the Federal Government has failed in its responsibility to defend the minorities in the country.

The Christian communities have lived under the threat of constant aggression by some who are bent on creating religious intolerance. However, prosecution of such insidious acts have been few and far between. Some of these examples as reported in the media include:

  • November 2006 - Some 500 Muslims protested in front of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Silibin, Ipoh, a consequence of an allegation by the Mufti of Perak, Tan Sri Haji Harussani Haji Zakaria that Muslim students of the Ungku Omar Polytechnic were to be baptised by national mariner Datuk Azhar Mansor. As it turned out, the church was not converting Muslims but instead was holding the First Holy Communion Mass (one of the rites of initiation to the faith) for 98 Catholic children, many of whom were traumatised by the sight of a threatening mob. The Mufti blamed the presence of this mob on the SMS sent out by a woman.
  • November 2009 - The acts of two journalists, who entered a Catholic Church and consumed the Holy Communion, removed and photographed the sacred specie and then published it in the Al-Islam magazine. The AG refused to take any action against these journalists. These journalists subsequently apologised after Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam issued a press statement.
  • January 22, 2013 - Reverend John Kennady, from St Mark’s Church, Butterworth lodged a police report at the Butterworth police station when he received a typed notice with the title ‘Jom Bakar! Pesta Bakar Bible Bahasa Melayu’.
  • February 2, 2013 - ABN News quoted Penang Deputy Police Chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar that the investigation paper on the alleged plot by certain quarters to burn copies of the Malay version of the Bible at Padang Bandaran Bagan Luar Butterworth, is ready and will be submitted to the Attorney—General’s Chambers.

Other incidents of violations on Christians as reported in the media include:

  • August 2007 - children’s religious books belonging to SIB were seized by the authorities at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal but were later returned.
  • 2007-2008, The Herald, Catholic weekly newspaper, was banned by the then Home Minister from using the word “Allah” in its publication. The Minister’s decision has been upheld by the Federal Court and a review thereof is pending.
  • May 11, 2008 - compact discs containing Christian religious teachings with the word ‘Allah’ seized at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) by the authorities. High Court on 22 July 2014 ordered its return.
  • August 3, 2011 - JAIS raid at a function held by Harapan Komuniti at the DUMC Christian Church.
  • January 2, 2014 - JAIS seizure of 300 bibles during a raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia.
  • May 6, 2014 - UiTM held a seminar on Christianology which included as its speakers, allegedly a former catholic priest, lnsan L S Mokoginta and a former Catholic nun, Irena Handono, who were later discovered not to be a Catholic priest or a Catholic nun, respectively. Police reports have been lodged but the investigation results have not been disclosed thus far.
  • October 30, 2014 - Malay Mail Online reported seizure of Christian books and compact discs allegedly containing the word “Allah” at KLIA2 for the use in Sabah.

Bishop Ng Moon Hing, past president of Christian Federation of Malaysia has previously expressed his fear that should the authorities fail to put a stop to “such extremism and hate speeches and instigation as soon as possible", the nation's social fabric will soon be torn apart.

CLS adopts the sentiments expressed by Bishop Ng and call on the Federal Government to act decisively to stamp out all hate speeches and instigation against any race or religion. The Federal Government must act without fear or favour against all persons that promote religious acrimony, animosity and hatred.

The Ministers of the Federal Government have all taken an oath of office to ‘bear true faith and allegiance to Malaysia’. This includes the duty and responsibility to keep, maintain and sustain peace, harmony and goodwill amongst her people. The CLS calls on the Federal Government to uphold this duty and responsibility.

The AG is reminded that above all he is the guardian of public interest. We quote the Federal Court in Johnson Tan Han Seng v Public Prosecutor (1977) 2 MLJ 66 @ 70 as follows,

"The public of whose interest he is the guardian has a right to expect him to act honestly, without fear of powerful national and local figures or of the consequences to him personally or politically, and without favouring his relatives and friends and supporters, his principal concern being to maintain the rule of law so that there will be no anarchy and to maintain standards in public life and the private sector; and if he did not do his duty honestly and properly, the public would be able to show their disapproval not however in the courts but elsewhere …'

The CLS calls on the AG as the guardian of our laws to act against Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

In failing to charge Datuk Ibrahim Ali on grounds that the context in which the words were uttered were such that no offence was committed, the AG appears to dangerously suggest that there could actually be situations where the call to burn the holy book of another person’s religion is permissible. Surely such an opinion emanating from none other than the chief prosecutor of the nation bodes ill for a multi-religious country such as Malaysia. The AG must seriously think about what would become of this nation if members of different religions are allowed to call for the burning of the holy books of other religions on the pretext of guarding the sanctity of their own religion.

We appeal to the AG to immediately reconsider his decision. We call on the AG to take the unequivocal position that anyone who calls for the burning of the holy book of any person’s religion has committed an offence under the Penal Code and no one should be spared from the long arm of the law regardless of the context in which such a call is made. The AG is reminded that it is his solemn public duty to ensure that all citizens including the minority are protected under the law.

CLS also appeal to the authorities who have seized religious bibles and property to return them to the rightful party.

More effort is necessary to promote good will amongst the various communities in Malaysia.

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