BY DESMOND DAVIDSON
Published: 13 June 2014 | Updated: 13 June 2014 1:13 AM
Putrajaya's 10-point solution allows the free importation and distribution of the Christian holy book in Malay and indigenous languages. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 13, 2014.
Although the seized Bible issue appears resolved with the Selangor government ordering the state religious authorities to return them, Christian leaders in Sabah and Sarawak are holding Putrajaya to the promise it made in the “10-point agreement” issued by the Najib administration three years ago.
They said the seizure of the Bibles would not have taken place had Putrajaya stood firm on the 10-point agreement – which allowed for Bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be imported and freely used in the two states.
They added Putrajaya must make clear its stand on religious freedom and are demanding that it rein in Islamic authorities to prevent further inter-religious incidents.
Sarawak's outspoken Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing (pic, left), reacting to Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s admission that the raid and seizure of the Bibles by the Selangor Islamic authorities was not justified, said it was imperative that the government make a stand on religious freedom in line with the Federal Constitution.
Masing said the over 300 copies of the Bibles seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia six months ago must be returned at the soonest possible date. The copies of Al-Kitab (in Malay language) and Bup Kudus (Iban) were destined for Sarawak and Sabah.
The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) had conducted the raid and seizure of the Bibles on the grounds that a 1988 Selangor enactment against propagating to Muslims had been violated.
Former plantation industries and commodities minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the seizure would not have happened if Putrajaya had stood firm on the 10-point agreement.
Dompok (pic, right), who recently stepped down as the United Pasokmomogun Kadazan Dusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president, said Putrajaya should check state religious authorities like Jais to prevent futher inter-religious incidents.
“The guiding principle must be that religious authorities must not step on the toes of practitioners of other faiths.
“Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution,” Dompok said.
“In view of the many incidents lately of state religious authorities getting bolder in their actions, there must be a standard operating procedure in which Putrajaya plays an active, not passive, role, in order to ensure the rights of others are not trampled on,” he added.
He was referring to the snatching of the body of an alleged Chinese Muslim convert at a funeral in Penang, and the raid on a Hindu temple in Selangor to stop a woman said to be a Muslim from getting married.
Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian (pic, left), demanding that Jais admit their mistakes and apologise, said state Islamic authorities should consult the state government on sensitive issues rather than take unilateral actions.
“On so sensitive an issue, they simply cannot do what they want,” he said.
The Ba Kelalan assemblyman also said he hopes the Bible seizure episode and other religious incidents will make Jais “more careful in future”.
“It's very obvious they cannot take this kind of action without proof. Suspicion is not enough in matters as sensitive as religion.
“The basic ingredient in law is to have proof before you act. The authorities shouldn’t just go barging in,” he said. – June 13, 2014.