Selangor MB Orders JAIS To Return Seized Bibles

Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has ordered the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) to return the 321 bibles seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), a day after the Attorney-General (AG) announced he will not be pursuing charges in the case.

The Selangor mentri besar said the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government has been advised by the state legal advisor’s office to ensure that the process of returning the Malay- and Iban-language bibles to BSM was carried out in accordance to the law.

“The state government has requested that YB Salehen Mukhyi and Selangor state legal advisor Datuk Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman assist JAIS in returning the items from the case,” Khalid said in a statement here, in reference to the seized bibles. Salehen is the Selangor state executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs. MB Khalid added that Salehen and JAIS have been asked to meet BSM to solve the “misunderstanding” over the seized bibles.

AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said yesterday there will be no charges in the case because the books contained the word “Allah” to refer to God. The books were seized from the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia on January 2. The raid came after the Court of Appeal ruled last October that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are Malays, the majority ethnic group in the country.

That ruling overturned a 2010 High Court decision that allowed the country’s sole Roman Catholic newspaper to use the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section, which caters to its faithful, most whom speak the national language and who hail from Sabah and Sarawak. The change has heightened concerns that religious authorities, which issue rulings for Muslims and operate alongside conventional courts, now have more legal muscle.

Abdul Gani added that investigation papers showed that the seized books were essentially Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia, and that the “Al-Kitab Berita Baik” contained materials from the Bible, Torah and Psalms. The statement pointed out that the seized items were not “controlled items” and that it was not a national security issue.

The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 passed by the then-Barisan Nasional (BN) state government prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including “Allah” (God), “Nabi” (prophet) and “Injil” (gospel).

The law was used by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) on January 2 when it sent a team of 20 religious officials and police officers to raid the BSM’s Selangor office, where over 300 copies of the Malay-language and Iban-language bibles containing the word “Allah” were seized.

BSM said in April it will move its headquarters to the federal government-ruled Kuala Lumpur to get “better protection” and avoid future bible seizures by religious authorities. BSM said it will also stop importing bibles through Selangor’s Port Klang. It said it will send the bibles through Penang or directly to east Malaysia where most of its Christian readers of the Malay-language bibles live.

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