Buck went beyond Khalid, Selangor reps say, in bible storm

Dr Halimah Ali

Ida Lim, Malay Mail Online

Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is not solely to blame for the seizure of 300 bibles in Selangor, state lawmakers said, with one executive councillor saying the order did not originate from the mentri besar.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state executive council member, Dr Halimah Ali said Khalid’s administration had not directed the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) to carry out the surprise raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) last January 2, when the Malay-language and Iban-language bibles containing the word “Allah” were confiscated.

“You have to understand that Jais is having instructions also from Mais,” she said, using the Malay acronym for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council.

“It’s not just the state government. That one was not instructed by the state government,” the Selat Kelang assemblyman for PAS told The Malay Mail Online yesterday.

Halimah said the state government had to tread carefully, to avoid stepping on the state Ruler’s jurisdiction.

“You have to be very careful because it also involves the Istana,” she said, when asked about PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s call for the return of the bibles with the condition against giving them to Muslims.

“He is a principle-centred man, he is a very open man but there are certain things he cannot do,” she added, referring to Khalid.

Selangor lawmakers from political rival Barisan Nasional (BN) also backed Khalid in his extreme caution in handling the public fury over the case, throwing their support behind Jais’s enforcement of a 1988 state law which they believed empowered the Islamic religious department to seize the bibles.

BN’s Mat Nadzari Ahmad Dahlan said Khalid had handled the bible seizure case “quite well because this issue is very sensitive and very delicate”, also saying that he was merely “applying” a 1988 Selangor enactment.

Khalid should not be faulted for applying the state law, Mat Nadzari said, adding:  ”You cannot blame him just like that.”

“You must remember we already have an enactment, he is just holding on to the enactment, he’s not wrong. I don’t see that he is wrong if he defends the enactment. The enactment is not made by him, it was from the House, what else do you want to protest?” the Batang Kali assemblyman told The Malay Mail Online when met at the state assembly here.

“He’s following the law, you release, you are against the enactment. Cannot. How to order the release now? The law is there, Jais is acting according to the law,” he said.

The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 passed by the then-Barisan Nasional (BN) state government prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).

Mat Nadzari noted that the 1988 enactment barred non-Muslims in Selangor from using words such as “Allah”, but cited Sabah and Sarawak as examples of states where non-Muslims could freely use the word as no similar laws exist there.

His colleague Shahrum Dato Mohd Sharif told The Malay Mail Online that he felt Khalid had done “well” while agreeing that the criticisms against him on the “Allah” issue was “unfair”.

Shahrum observed that the state leader could not simply interfere in the bible seizure case without considering Selangor’s laws and enactment.

“To be honest with you, the mentri besar handled it well, what I mean by that is in Selangor we are bound by the non-Muslim 1988 enactment,” the Dengkil assemblyman said, adding that a fatwa or religious edict in Selangor as well as the state ruler’s previous declaration bars non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”.

“In this case we need to be patient, we need to believe in the legal channels in this state and country,” he said..

Although two other BN state lawmakers including Opposition Leader Datuk Mohd Shamsudin Lias said the right person to shoulder most of the responsibilities over the bible case should be Selangor religious affairs exco member Sallehen Mukhyi, they also said Khalid’s administration lacks a firm and consistent stand.

“I think it is not handled well, creating a lot of questions, I think the religious affairs exco needs to have a very firm stand on whether this case supports or doesn’t support Jais. Don’t let there be grey area because we are talking about the enactment, the laws,” Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak said.