Bible Society says Hisham putting cart before horse

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

In a sign of the widening chasm between Church and State, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) has challenged the home minister to prove it agreed to the conditional release of its holy books seized from Port Klang.


“BSM was never in a hurry to get the Bibles released as alleged by Datuk (Seri) Hishammuddin (Hussein). It was the government who, in response to recent public outcry, themselves decided to release it and to impose conditions without consulting BSM,” said the Christian group’s chairman Lee Min Choon.

Lee said the society first learnt of the ministry’s conditional release on Tuesday through a faxed notice sent at 6pm.

“Before BSM could inform KDN that the conditions were not acceptable to us, KDN had already stamped the Bibles by the next day.

“This shows that it was KDN who were in a hurry to release the Bibles to get themselves out of the controversy they were in,” he told The Malaysian Insider today in an email.

KDN is the Home Ministry’s Malay-language acronym.

On Thursday, Hishammuddin defended his ministry’s stamping of 5,100 Malay-language Bibles in Port Klang with its official seal, saying it was standard protocol and not done to “deface” the Alkitab.

He added that the serialisation of the Bibles was because “they are subject to the particular seizure in Klang,” in a reference to Selangor’s anti-propagation state law that forbids non-Muslims from preaching to Muslims.

The minister also said his men had no choice but to adhere to these procedures as the BSM had wanted the Bibles released quickly.

“We stamped the Bible based on amalan (practice) before… during Abdullah Badawi and even Tun Dr Mahathir’s time,” Hishammuddin said, referring to the previous two prime ministers.

“They wanted it to be released quickly… if they want to find fault they can find fault… you can even say the Bibles are smelly after being kept for so long, if you want to find fault (with everything),” the minister told reporters in Parliament.

The BSM denied this on Thursday.

“There has been no occasion in the past when KDN chopped [sic] our Bibles… we do not know of any standard practice nor have we ever received communications, written or verbal, where KDN officials stamped our holy books in the past,” its general secretary, Reverend Simon Wong, said.

He related that when the BSM’s cargo was detained in the past, Home Ministry officials had always treated the Bibles with respect.