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Christians demand release of banned Malay bibles


November 09 2009

Malaysian Christians are demanding the release of 15,000 Malay-language bibles, confiscated by the government because they use the word "Allah" for God.


Bishop Ng Moon Hing

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) says everyone has the constitutional right to use the national language to practice his or her religion.

"It is baseless to withhold the bibles in Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) on the grounds that they are ´prejudicial to public order,´" the CFM said in a Nov. 4 statement.

The use of the word "Allah" in Christian publications is also likely to confuse Muslims and draw them to Christianity, the government has said, although repeated media requests for further comment have failed.

"Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia have been used since before independence ... and have never been the cause of any public disorder," the CFM statement says.

Despite the government ban, "Allah" remains the commonly used word for God in the Malay language.

The constitution "gives every Malaysian the right to profess his or her faith as well as to practice it," says the CFM statement, signed by its chairman, Bishop Ng Moon Hing. The bishop is head of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia.

Most of the seized bibles are destined for the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak, where Malay is the most widely used language.

The CFM, based in Petaling Jaya, just outside Kuala Lumpur, represents the Catholic Church, the Council of Churches of Malaysia, and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia.

It demands the authorities "resolve this matter promptly and release these bibles for the use of Christians without further delay or excuse."

The CFM also raised the ban issue at an Oct. 29 meeting with the Sabah Council of Churches in Kota Kinabalu, capital of the easternmost state.

The seizures have added to fears among minority groups that Islamic fundamentalism is gaining a grip in the predominantly Muslim but multi-racial country.

There are around 2 million Christians -- 9 percent of the population -- in Malaysia. Around a third of them live in Sabah, another third in Sarawak and another third in peninsular Malaysia.