Selangor Sultan, MAIS Have No Right To Interfere In Non-Muslims’ Affairs, Says Constitutional Expert

Neither the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) nor the Sultan has any right to interfere in the affairs of non-Muslims, Dr Abdul Aziz Bari (pic) said today, following the uproar over the religious authority’s insistence that it retain the Bibles seized from The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM).

The constitutional expert said issues regarding non-Muslims' faith and religious practices were not under either MAIS's or the Sultan's jurisdiction‎, as the two institutions only had power over the affairs of Muslims.

"Both the Sultan and MAIS have no right to teach, intervene or disturb the way non-Muslims practise their faith but now this has happened"

The Sultan’s and MAIS's powers are restricted to Muslims; that is the issue now," Aziz told The Malaysian Insider.

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is to meet with the Sultan of Selangor‎, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, today to propose that all 321 Malay and Iban-language Bibles be returned to BSM. He said they had not reached a resolution yet over the issue as they were still considering other options.‎

"Of course we want to return (the Bibles) but the case must be handled using the correct procedures," he said.‎ Aziz, a former lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) said MAIS had acted beyond their powers in this case.‎

"This involves items that belong to BSM. BSM is a non-Muslim organisation, what power does MAIS have over non-Muslims? "Now they refuse to return the Bibles, but what power do they‎ have to keep the Bibles?" asked Aziz.

He said MAIS could only act as a complainant, but prosecution powers lay with the Attorney-General, who had already ordered for the case to be closed.

‎"MAIS has no legal powers, all they can do is complain or lodge a police report," said Aziz.

He said that although MAIS insisted on using the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988 to mount a case against BSM, only the attorney-general had powers to prosecute the organisation. BSM could only be charged in the civil courts, and not the Shariah courts, as it was a non-Muslim entity, said Aziz.‎

"Even though the enactment is under the Selangor state, it can only be carried out in the civil courts and only the attorney-general can prosecute them.‎ Aziz also pointed out that MAIS was storing the Bibles illegally, as it had no court order ‎to do so. Political analyst Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said the entire row could be resolved if the Sultan used his discretion to have the Bibles returned.

"Maybe the Sultan's intervention is the best option, now that this issue is simply hanging," he said.

Last week, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said the Selangor Islamic Religious Department had erred in seizing the Bibles from BSM in January, and ordered the case closed. But MAIS had rejected the decision and refused to return the Bibles, sparking criticism from Selangor Pakatan Rakyat leaders and the public. Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak urged MAIS to discuss the matter with the attorney-general if it believed Gani should re-examine his decision on the Bibles.

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