KUCHING: The 321 Bibles seized in Jan 2 have been released. While not all is lost, not all is solved either.
Sarawak and Sarawakians still need greater assurance related to the Bible issue, which a state legislative assembly member has brought to the attention of the august house currently in sitting.
But before we go further into that, it certainly looks like a guarded statement from the Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) chairman Datuk Bolly Lapok after he took possession of the Bibles, saying ACS was grateful for the intervention of the Selangor Sultan in the matter.
He said the sultan and ACS were keen to see an end to the impasse surrounding the Bibles “based on a practical and common sense solution which recognised that the use and distribution of Bibles containing the word Allah was against state laws”.
“The ACS accepts the resolution that has been achieved in this instant. It is hoped that the spirit of compromise underlying the resolution may be viewed as a step towards enhancing interfaith understanding and harmony in Malaysia,” he added.
The sultan did not return the Bibles to ACS; Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (Mais) did.
Bolly was given the Bibles in what The Star described as “a simple ceremony” at the Istana Alam Shah in Klang in the presence of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Mentri Besar Azmin Ali, Jais officials and leaders and representatives from the Christian community.
A Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (Mais) statement signed by its chairman Datuk Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa said the Selangor Sultan hoped that the distribution and printing of Bibles containing the word Allah would no longer be done in Selangor, which is an offence under the Non-Islamic Religious Enactment (Control Development among Muslims), 1988.
Earlier in the same statement, Adzib said Mais’ returning of the Bibles to ACS was on the strict conditions that they are not to be distributed in Selangor and only for use by Christians in Sarawak.
“The settlement is to respect each other’s religious beliefs and maintain the sensitivity of various religions in the country.”
There was no report of what Sultan Sharafuddin said at the “simple ceremony” beyond what was contained in the Mais statement.
That’s how powerful Mais is. The same goes for Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais).
Let’s retrace the Bible seizure episode for a clearer picture of the powerful Mais and Jais.
On Jan 2, Jais raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)'s premises in Damansara and seized the Bibles, claiming it contravened a 1988 Selangor enactment, which prevents non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’.
The case was referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers by the Selangor government.
In June, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail declared the case closed, said the seized books did not involve issues of national security and ordered Jais to return them to BSM.
Mais did not agree with the AG's decision to close the case and refused to return the Bibles.
Adzib said: “The reason given by the Attorney-General for not prosecuting those involved will cause confusion among the Muslims.
“As the authorities on Islam in the state, Mais and Jais are very concerned over any attempt to tarnish the sanctity of Islam by misusing Quranic terms or names, a move we believe could be used for proselytising.”
Which saw the Selangor government, then helmed by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, stepping in and adopting the AG's stance.
Khalid referred the matter to the palace, with Sharafuddin ordering Mais and Jais to refer the matter to the courts to decide whether the bibles should be returned or destroyed.
Mais remained unfazed and unmoved with Adzib saying the decision to not comply with the state government’s order to return the Bibles was made at a meeting between Mais and Jais.
“We have decided not to return the Bibles as the Selangor executive council has no jurisdiction to instruct Jais to return items seized during any investigation.
“We are adhering to the Criminal Procedure Code that says items seized in the course of an investigation can be referred to the court to be disposed of.”
He said it was decided in that meeting of Mais and Jais that there was a case against BSM under the Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
It is against this backdrop that PKR’s Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian has requested at the current sitting of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly that the Sarawak state government obtain the Sarawak chapters of Jais (Sarawak) and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim)’s stand on Sarawakians’ rights to use the word ‘Allah’.
Baru, who is state PKR chairman, said State Islamic Council (Mais) members and their administrative arm Jais are appointed by the Yang di-pertuan Agong and they are therefore answerable to the king and not the chief minister.
“The chief minister appears to have no say in the affairs of Mais and Jais. Jakim, which has branches in Sarawak, is a unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, and presumably, they are answerable to the prime minister and not to our chief minister.”
Baru said Jais and Jakim’s stand is necessary to allay fears of many Sarawakians and in support of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s stand.
“I’m thankful for the voices of the Chief Minister and Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing (Parti Rakyat Sarawak president) who have consistently rejected religious extremism that is being propounded by several groups in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Indeed, there is no place in Sarawak for supremacist and hate-mongering bigots and we must strive to keep them out of Sarawak. However, I must voice my concern that Jais and Jakim have not stated their stand on our rights to use the word ‘Allah’,” Baru said.