Jais likely to return ‘most’ bibles to BSM, says Selangor rep

Sallehin Mukhyi

(MM) – The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) is expected to return “most” of the bibles seized two months ago from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) but may keep a few for further investigation, a state executive councillor said.

Sallehin Mukhyi, who is in charge of Islamic Affairs in Selangor said Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail is now advising Jais on two matters — whether to press charges against BSM for using the word “Allah” in the 300 Malay-and Iban-language bibles and whether the books should be returned to them.

“From what I understand, there is a possibility that most of the bibles will be returned to them (BSM)… Jais may keep a few for the purpose of further investigation,” the Sabak state assemblyman told The Malay Mail Online here.

“The issue is that whether the word ‘Allah” was used in the bible, and it clearly was,” the PAS leader added when asked why the investigation was taking so long.

Earlier yesterday, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said he was confident the issue would be resolved soon.

“The A-G will advise Jais on the modus operandi… I believe the process is almost done,” he told reporters here.

Jais enforcers had seized over 300 Malay- and Iban-language bibles from the BSM on January 2 on suspicion the Christian holy books were being used to convert Muslims.

A 1988 state enactment prohibits non-Muslims from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faiths, including “Allah” as part of measures to control the propagation of other religions to Muslims.

BSM has said that they distribute most of their Malay-language bibles to churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also cater to Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula, including the Orang Asli and those who come from East Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that Putrajaya’s 10-point solution on the row over the Arabic word for God is subject to existing state and federal laws.

Besides Selangor, nine other states have similar enactments banning non-Muslim usage of “Allah” and other Arabic words, except Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territories.

Lawyers have denounced the Selangor 1988 enactment that prohibits non-Muslims from calling God “Allah” as unconstitutional.

The Najib administration’s 10-point solution — which was mooted shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011 to resolve the seizure of a consignment of the Al-Kitab — allows for bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be printed, imported and distributed freely in Sabah and Sarawak.

But in the peninsula, the holy books must be stamped to indicate that they are a Christian publication.

Point nine of the 10-point solution, however, states that the federal government’s commitment in working with Christian groups will take into account the relevant laws in the country.

Two weeks ago, the Federal Court postponed indefinitely a decision on whether it will allow the Catholic Church to appeal a lower court ruling preventing its newspaper The Herald from using the word “Allah” to refer to God.