The reluctance to return the Bibles

The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) is convinced that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) is refusing to return the Bibles seized from its premises four months ago because to do so would be an admission that it had erred in both deed and manner.

May 07, 2014

The Bible Society of Malaysia president Lee Min Choon says the Selangor Islamic Religious Department should return the Bibles it had seized. – The Malaysian Insider pic, May 3, 2014.

PETALING JAYA: The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) is convinced that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) is refusing to return the Bibles seized from its premises four months ago because to do so would be an admission that it had erred in both deed and manner.

"Returning the Bibles will amount to an admission that Jais was wrong in carrying out the raid and seizure, that they wrongly arrested BSM officers and they wrongly interpreted the law," BSM president Lee Min Choon said in his latest blog posting yesterday.

He said the return of the 321 Bahasa Malaysia and Iban Bibles would be a massive blow to Jais's image and prestige.

"Too many sins have been committed. It is better to hold on to the Bibles and tell the public that they are waiting for the A-G (Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail) to say something. Hopefully, if they hold out long enough, everybody will forget about it," Lee said.

On January 2, enforcement officers from Jais and policemen went to the BSM office in Damansara Kim, Selangor, and carted away 321 copies of the Bibles.

Lee and BSM office manager Sinclair Wong were detained and taken to the police station. They had to go to the Jais office a few days later to have their statements recorded.

In an earlier posting on May 1, Lee had described the meeting with Jais officers on January 10. He had said that he was accompanied by Sinclair, BSM general-secretary Simon Wong and an officer from the office of Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing the National Unity Department.

Lee had said an officer, identified only as Malik, questioned him.

"He asked about the background of BSM, my position and if I am involved in the operations of BSM.

"I told him I was not involved in the operations as we have staff to do that. I come in for board meetings once in three months and the staff report to us what they are doing," he had said.

In his May 1 posting, Lee also said that Malik had asked why there was a need for a Malay Bible.

"I explained that it is our function to supply Bibles in all languages to churches in Malaysia. We have Bibles in English, Mandarin, Tamil, East Malaysian dialects and Malay. I told him that we have over 2 million Christians in Malaysia and 60%, or 1.2 million, speak Bahasa Malaysia, the national language. They use the Malay Bible supplied by us.

"Malik had one of our Malay Bibles on the table in front of him. He asked me if it was all right for him to touch and pick up the Bible. I said yes, no problem, go ahead. He picked it up and turned to the first page and asked who is the publisher of this Bible.

“BSM,” I answered.

“When was it published?”

“1995. It says so on the front page.”

“Were you the chairman then?” asked Malik.

“No,” I answered, “I was not even a member of BSM then.”

“Where was the Bible printed?” Malik asked.

“Indonesia,” I answered, “it says so on the front page.”

“How much does it cost to print one copy?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“How much do you sell it for?”

“I don’t know,” I answered again.

“RM25,” Malik said.

“Oh, you know about this,” I remarked.

Malik pulled out a piece of paper from his file and waved it, saying: “This is the receipt.”

“One of my officers went to your bookshop and bought this Bible. Did you know about this?” Malik asked.

“No. I don’t,” I answered.

Lee, in his post, said the questions about the Bible took no more than 10 minutes.

Jais conducted the raid under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

The enactment, which was passed by the then Barisan Nasional state government, prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya'Allah” (God willing).

On April 15, Lee announced that the BSM planned to move its operations out of Selangor to Kuala Lumpur, a federal territory, and was awaiting approval from the Registrar of Society.

Lee said that the move was needed as Putrajaya offers better protection to religious minorities.

He also said that Putrajaya upheld the Cabinet’s 10-point solution to the Allah row by not disrupting the distribution of its Bible shipments.

Lee said from the various press statements, he had learnt that the investigation paper was submitted by Jais to the A-G's Chambers in either late January or early February, but four months had passed since the raid and no action had been taken.

"Either we have committed an offence or we have not. Our A-G is no fool. He does not need more than three months to decide a case as simple as this," he added.

Lee also said Jais had no reason to keep the Bibles if there was no prosecution.

"Even if BSM is prosecuted, only one copy of the Al-Kitab needs to be produced in court as an exhibit. They don’t need 321 Bibles to prove their case," he added.

Jais director Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad was not available for comment as he is on leave.--The Malaysian Insider


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