Thursday, January 9, 2014

'Jais did not trample on religious freedom'

1:55PM Jan 9, 2014

The Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais) has defended its enforcement agency - the state Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) - with regard to the raid and confiscation of copies of the Bible.

Responding to critics who claimed that Jais' action violated the constitutional right to freedom of religion, Mais chairperson Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa (right) said the agency was just enforcing the law.

"Jais' action should not be misunderstood as an act of interfering with the constitutional right of anyone to profess and practise their religions as enshrined under the federal constitution.

"This is because Jais' action was merely to enforce the law that was enacted to prevent the propagation of other religious doctrines or beliefs among Muslims.

"This has nothing to do with any attempts to intervene with the rights and freedom of other religions to perform their religious practices," Mohamad Adzib said in a statement today.

He said the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) had contravened Section 9 of the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 because copies of the Bible distributed by the BSM contained the word “Allah”.

The word "Allah" is among 34 words and phrases that non-Muslims cannot use in any circumstance, according to Section 9.

Stressing this, Mohamad Adzib said the more than 300 copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban language were seized not because the holy books were printed in those languages but because they contained a prohibited word.

"Unfortunately, the media and also the National Unity Consultative Council have made various inaccurate allegations, as reported in newspapers, stating that the action by Jais in confiscating the said copies of the Bible printed and published in the Malay language was inappropriate and illegal.

"The actions by these parties is regrettable because they have made statement(s) without finding out the accurate facts,"Mohamad Adzib said.

He added that Jais' action on BSM followed Mais' stance that "Jais must act on complaints lodged by the public with regard to the offences under the 1988 Enactment".

"In other words, to enforce existing laws in Selangor," he said, noting that there are public complaints against BSM.  

Jais doesn't have to tell anyone

Mohamad Adzib also said that Jais has "no obligation to inform parties regarding any inspection or investigation because it may hamper the investigation process".

The Selangor government yesterday said that Jais must inform the executive council member in charge of Islamic affairs before conducting any raid.

He added that Section 12 of the same enactment also empowers police and Jais to investigate suspected offences and conduct "inspections".

He reminded members of the public that besides the 1988 Enactment, there is also a Selangor fatwa, gazetted in 2010, which prohibits the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

"The state's fatwa is also consistent with the decision pronounced during the 82nd National Fatwa Committee for Islamic Religious Affairs in Malaysia," he said.

Mohamad Adzib also cited the Court of Appeal ruling which held that the use of the word "Allah" by Catholic weekly The Herald "will cause confusion within the community and does not form an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity".

"Although the Court of Appeal's decision is being appealed at the Federal Court, such decision is still binding on all parties," he said.

He noted that the Selangor sultan had also issued a decree following the Court of Appeal decision that Selangor religious authorities must enforce the 1988 Enactment.

'Not a raid but an investigation'

"Under such circumstances, Mais urges the public not to make this into an issue so that the investigation can be completed without any undue influence and to ensure a fair and effective investigation," he said.
On Jan 2, Jais raided the BSM premises in Damansara and confiscated more than 300 copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and the Iban language and arrested two of its officers.

The officers were released on bail, while Jais maintains that the incident was not a raid but rather an inspection or investigation.

Before the 2011 Sarawak election, the cabinet issued the "10-point Solution" stating that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages can be used, imported into and printed in Peninsular Malaysia, as long as it has the words "Christian publication" and a cross on its front cover.

The Bar Council argued that Section 9 is ultra vires the Federal Constitution as it is a blanket provision that goes beyond the ambit of the Enactment's preamble, that is to stop propagation.

It also argued that Section 9 is unconstitutional as Article 11(4) empowers the state to curb freedom of religion only to control the propagation of other religions among Muslims.
~ Malaysiakini

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