Published on: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Kota Kinabalu: Christian churches in the country have no intention of using Malay language Bibles to proselytise Malays or Malay-speaking Muslims in the country.
Sabah Council of Churches President Datuk Bishop Thomas Tsen said the 321 Bibles seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia's (BSM) office were meant for distribution to the Christian community in the country.
"BSM is our main organisation for importing and distributing Bibles to our Christian community. However, we are 1Malaysia, and we do not know if Muslims will go to BSM shops or Christian faith bookstores which carry these Bibles.
"We do not intend to influence MuslimsÉwe have so many Malay-speaking Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who are working in the peninsula," he said.
Tsen added it was unfair that Christians are not allowed to use the Bibles just because there is a slight possibility that the Bibles would cause confusion among the Muslims.
"This is our Bible. How come suddenly we are not free to use?
If because these Bibles will cause confusion, that is not our intention, not the church's intention to Christianise everybody with these Bibles.
"After all, if they think this is dangerous, on the Internet you can read the Bible alsoÉthe whole Bible and in all languages," he said.
Tsen continued that he is mystified by the whole drama especially since the Attorney-General had clearly indicated that the 321 copies of the Bible, the Alkitab and the Iban Bibles need to be released and returned to the BSM.
"I do not think that it is fair to say that the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais) can make the final decision whether to return or not.
What is the role of the AG?
"This kind of explanation we cannot accept. The AG had said, 'no case'.
So Mais will have to bring a new charge if they insist on prosecuting BSM.
"Then, as a church leader, that would make better sense," said the Council of Churches of Malaysia Immediate Past President.
The decision by Mais to defy the Attorney-General's instruction to return the seized Bibles had received much reaction, including from the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who urged the body to review the matter with AG.
Four PAS MPs in Selangor had also slammed Mais, claiming its actions had tarnished Islam and urged the Selangor Government to amend the laws to remove executive powers from Mais to instruct Jais to carry out its orders.
Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad also explained that Jais' action had nothing to do with PAS after news went round on social media accusing the party of being the instigator in the case.
Meanwhile, the decision on whether the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) will return to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), the 300 Bibles seized from it last January, will be announced on Monday.
Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said a bit of time was needed to ensure the decision taken would be final and would last for the future.
He said he had an audience with the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah earlier today to explain the issue and he had also contacted Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to further discuss the matter.
Khalid said Abdul Ghani had explained the issue in detail and the information would be relayed to the Selangor Sultan during an audience with the ruler again tomorrow.
"This is to obtain the final decision on the issue and I will meet with PSM on Monday to discuss it. I have to be fair, whatever the result of the discussion. I will refer to the Sultan and I target to resolve the issue by Monday," he said.
He said after his discussion with the Sultan, he would call Mais, PSM, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) and state executive councillors to inform them of the decision before making a public announcement.
Last Thursday, Khalid in a statement ordered Jais to return the seized Bibles to BSM after Abdul Gani announced that no charges would be made over the seizure, hence the case was closed.
However, Mais said the Bibles would not be returned as these had been sealed for the purpose of investigation under Section 9(1)(a) of the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988.
On Jan 2, Jais raided the PSM premises in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya and seized 300 Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and the Iban language using the word "Allah", so as to stop its use.
The Selangor state assembly sitting adjourned sine die.