Malaysian authorities have seized hundreds of Bibles from the Bible Society in Malaysia and detained staff members, another step in the country’s tensions over use of the word ‘Allah’ (Arabic for ‘God’).
321 Bibles were confiscated yesterday by Jais, a Malaysian Islamic authority, who arrested the Bible Society’s chairman Lee Min Choon and office manager Sinclair Wong and took them to Damansara Utama police station where they were later released on bail.
The Christian minority in Malaysia expressed deep concerns late last year after a court decision in October banned the word ‘Allah’ from use in a Catholic newspaper. However, it appeared that the ruling would not apply to use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Bible. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, assured Christians they would not be threatened by the verdict.
Lee Min Choon told a Malaysian TV station outside the police station that as far as Bible Society know, the authorities are aware of the activities of Bible Society, or the existence of the Bibles which contain the word ‘Allah’.
“…We expect the authorities to work with each other and sort this situation out, so that Malay-speaking Christians in this country can continue to read their Scriptures, to have access to their Holy book and also to find a solution whereby the harmony and spirit of tolerance which has existed among Malaysians for so many decades can be preserved.”
Lee Min Choon told ABC that the Bible Society had been using the Bibles which contain the word “Allah” (the Arabic word for ‘God’) since its foundation in 1985. The Bible Society is so far not aware of the next steps in the Jais action, or what charges they will be called to answer.
The raids on the Malaysian Bible Society will once again ignite this issue, with many in Malaysia claiming Islamic authorities in the country do not, or should not, have jurisdiction over non-Muslim activities.