KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Despite claims of subjudice by a minister, the Home Ministry confirmed today it had gone ahead with orders to notify importers in both Port Klang and Kuching of the release of their 35,000 Malay-language bibles.
Home Ministry Publications Control and Quranic Text Division secretary, Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad, told The Malaysian Insider this afternoon that letters have already been delivered to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons, to inform them of the latest development.
She acknowledged that the letters were issued following the government’s decision yesterday the holy books could be released but with certain conditions that must be met.
“Yes, I can confirm that we have issued the letters,” Zaitun said when contacted.
The Malaysian Insider received a faxed copy of the letter issued to BSM yesterday, which said “For your information, the Home Ministry has decided that the 5,100 copies of ‘Al-Kitab Berita Baik’ impounded in Port Klang, Selangor, on March 20, 2009, will be released with the following conditions”.
The conditions are that the books must be bear a stamp demarcating “For Christians Only” together with serial numbers.
Zaitun, however, refused to comment on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz’s comment today that the consignment of Bibles in Port Klang cannot be released as it would be subjudice.
“You better refer to him for any clarification,” she said and declined further comment.
Nazri, who is the de facto law minister, told The Malaysian Insider in Parliament this afternoon that the 5,100-strong consignment in Port Klang remained illegal due to a prohibition in Selangor Islamic laws.
He said the 30,000 shipment presently held in the Kuching port, however, can be released immediately as there was no enactment in Sarawak banning the use of the word “Allah” in non-Muslim publications.
Ten states, including Selangor, currently enforce the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment, which restricts the use either verbally, or in print, of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
As such, the Padang Rengas MP said the release of the Port Klang shipment would be subjudice to the Attorney-General’s court appeal against the use of “Allah” in non-Muslim publications as the case is based on the enactment.
Nazri’s statement, however, contradicts the release order announced by his fellow Cabinet colleague Datuk Seri Idris Jala who said in a statement yesterday that the Attorney-General himself had confirmed that the release of the Bibles would not affect the ongoing “Allah” case.
Jala, who is a Sarawak Christian, added that the 1982 gazette under the Internal Security Act allows the limited and controlled importation and circulation of such books on condition that they are stamped “For Christians Only”.
Jala’s statement came shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the Cabinet would discuss the sensitive issue during its meeting this Friday.
Nazri confirmed this today, but explained that the discussion would only be on what to do with the 5,100 consignment stored in Port Klang and not on the 30,000 copies in Kuching.
“We would be breaking the law if we do it (release the bibles) now,” he said.ds.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia, which represents 90 per cent of churches in Malaysia, has said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had long ago decided to release the Alkitabs but so far, the home ministry, which controls customs, has refused to hand them over.
Christians, who make up close to 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 28 million population, use Bahasa Malaysia in Sabah and Sarawak churches to preach to a multi-ethnic congregation who each have a distinctive tribal language.
But evangelical churches there, such as Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), have crossed the South China Sea to preach to the growing number of Sarawakians and Sabahans who are settling down in the peninsula after furthering their studies or finding work here.
This is what they got despite the best intention of the Government:
I think the Government should follow Minister Nazri's advise on the Alkitab consignment in Klang, we do not want any trouble with the 10 states (Ten states, including Selangor, currently enforce the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment, which restricts the use either verbally, or in print, of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.).
I hope the consignees of the Alkitab move on, you have got what you wanted especially in Sarawak that is the release of the Alkitab Injil albeit with terms and condition set by our Law.