Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Return bibles, govt told

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) calls for the immediate release of the 15,000 bibles in Bahasa Malaysia currently being withheld by the authorities.

To withhold the use of the Bahasa Malaysia bibles is an infringement of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which gives every Malaysian the right to profess his or her faith as well as to practise it. This constitutional right is rendered illusory if Christians in Malaysia are denied access to bibles in a language with which they are familiar.

This action of withholding the Bahasa Malaysia bibles deprives Christians in Sabah, Sarawak, and Semenanjung Malaysia, a large majority of whom use Bahasa Malaysia, the right to use the holy scriptures in Bahasa Malaysia, to practise and profess their faith, and to nourish themselves spiritually.

It is baseless to withhold the bibles in Bahasa Malaysia on the ground that they are “prejudicial to public order”.  Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia have been used since before our country’s independence and has never been the cause of any public disorder.

Since the 1970s and in consonance with the government’s policies in education and the national language, Christians in Malaysia have received their education in Bahasa Malaysia. To deny the same Christians in Malaysia the right to read and study the bible in Bahasa Malaysia is thus ridiculous and offensive. In fact, it is this action by the authorities themselves which is an affront to public order.

We call on the relevant government officials, who have neither the authority nor the right to act in this unconscionable manner, to explain their action to church leaders and to the public.

Church leaders and the executive committee of the CFM in “An Affirmation to the Churches in Malaysia” (The Kuching consultation, 6 to 8 Sept 1989) and then later in “A Declaration to Churches in Malaysia” (30 Jan 2008) have stood on their commitment to Bahasa Malaysia as our national language. We have used and continue to use Bahasa Malaysia in the life and witness of our churches and Christian organisations.

The government and CFM have exchanged letters on this matter previously and we have a written agreement dated December 2005 that Bahasa Malaysia bibles can be distributed so long as the symbol of the cross and the words “A Christian publication” are printed on the front page.

We call on the government to walk the talk of its 1Malaysia policy and vision and not to curtail or impose conditions on the freedom of citizens to worship, pray and read the holy scriptures in Bahasa Malaysia. How can the first pillar of the Rukunegara i.e.  “Belief in God”, be made a living reality in the lives of Malaysians if the government imposes restrictions and conditions on the constitutional and fundamental rights of citizens to freedom of religion?

We ask that the relevant authorities resolve this matter promptly and release these bibles for the use of Christians without any further delay or excuse.

Bishop Ng Moon Hing
Chairperson
Executive committee
Christian Federation of Malaysia
4 Nov 2009

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18 Responses to “Return bibles, govt told”

  1. Karcy says:

    Two things in one blow!

    First the arrest of Dr. Asri, which seems so arbitrary.

    Then Bibles seized!

    How would Muslims feel if they went to America, and the Quran was seized, because it talks about Jesus!

    The funny thing is that the Christian Arabs Prophet Muhammad was interacting with himself in Saudi Arabia probably all used the word ‘Allah’ to refer to ‘God’ anyway!

    So silly!

  2. Farouq Omaro says:

    Any Muslim who reads the Malay Bible would easily know that it has nothing to do with Islam. The way the Bible is written does not make sense as a religious text to Muslims. So it is mind-boggling why the government is adamant about keeping it away from Christians!

    The majority of Christians wouldn’t recite a verse from the Bible to Muslims, let alone in Malay! But the opposite is common! Even in official functions where a majority of the those in attendance are not Muslims, the recital of the Muslim “doa” would be done. And there are many Muslims who are not shy about publicly talking about Islam to those who are not Muslims.

    All the Christians want is to have their Bible back. So, please give it to them! In the meantime, Muslims can still tell Christians to their faces that what they believe is wrong, and the Christians won’t say a thing.

  3. BRAVO Bishop Ng Moon Hing. Simply Excellent! Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Federal Constition and any Malaysian going against it must be charged in the Court of Law.

  4. Ida Bakar says:

    Your Grace,

    May I suggest that you make this widely known via MSMs that are government friendly or otherwise. If you organised an online petition and let this matter be known, I am sure it will be supported by a good cross section of Malaysian society. Petition the Agong and the muftis. Surely, the pseudoreligious elements in the establishment cannot deny Surah 106:9 “Your belief is yours and my belief is mine.”

  5. a christian says:

    Farouq Omaro,you are totally wrong about “Muslims can still tell Christians to their faces that what they believe is wrong, and the Christians won’t say a thing.” You don’t know anything about Christianity, you don’t know anything about our God. But we know who our God is and we know exactly what we believe in and I know [God] can touch you. I’ll keep you in my prayer, Farouq and you’ll know the truth.

  6. racist says:

    Yeah.. I would like to see the government seize bibles in Aramaic… perhaps only then people will realise that .. On Jesus’s second coming… perhaps we need to teach Jesus our national language….

  7. ellese a says:

    Why can’t you print using the word “Tuhan”. Rukunegara says kepercayaan kepada Tuhan and not kepercayaan kepada Allah. You’re very insensitive.

  8. SamG says:

    1Malaysia 2Systems, next GE show all our displeasure and disgust. Vote for PR.

  9. Karcy says:

    ellese a:

    The Bible has two distinctive words to refer to God. One is ‘Theos’, which is translated to ‘God’ in English. The other is ‘Kyrios’ which is translated to ‘Lord’ in English. That is why Christians say ‘the Lord God’. In Indonesian Malay, ‘Theos’ is translated to ‘Allah’ and ‘Kyrios’ is translated to ‘Tuhan’. There is no suitable equivalent. Some people have suggested switching from ‘Allah’ to ‘Elohim’, but I do not think it is very accurate because Elohim is used very specifically at only certain times.

  10. Merah Silu says:

    I do not understand the issue as raised by Mr Ng Moon Hing. This is not about the bible. He has been warned thousands of time not to use the word Allah to refer to the “Father” of the Christian Gods in the Bahasa Malaysia version. In the English version, the word Allah has never be been used to refer to the “Father” of the religion. Well, they can use the term “Bapak Tuhan”.

    The last request by Mr Ng for the authorities “to resolve the matter without further delay or excuse” is just to show his arrogance. He does not need to refer to the constitution as the constitution is very clear about the position of Islam. I think he just wants to test the feelings of Malay [Malaysians] due to the bad performance of the BN during GE12. Anyway Mr Ng, the authorities have done a good job, and I am one of millions of Malay [Malaysians] who wholeheartedly supports the government’s action. Well, nobody stops you from printing it in English, Chinese, Hindi, Punjabi, other than the Malay [language]. Even many of commentators in The Nut Graph can’t even read or wouldn’t like to read anything in Bahasa Malaysia, so why bother. They think they are now superior and do not need to respect the national language.

  11. Kamal says:

    The authorities need to apologize first for infringing on the rights of Malaysian Christians to have the Bible in their native language and national language. It is firstly ridiculous to think that the presence of the bible in BM will confuse Malay Muslim [Malaysians] and secondly, insulting to everyone to claim that the bible in BM is ‘prejudicial to public order’. I wonder what this means, a BM bible is a threat to public order? The bible preaches peace and love for God among other things, how is this a threat to anyone? The only other insinuation is that Malay Muslim [Malaysians] are insecure about their convictions to their faith and need someone or some organization to look out for their interests – making Malay Muslim [Malaysians] a passive subject to their own convictions. How sad, the day that faith cannot be allowed to be engaged freely but has to be policed and censured for the good of the faithful! And ironic even to use faith, a free expression to keep people in shackles.

    I wonder if this runs contrary to what Muslims have been taught that there is no compulsion in Islam.

    And it is not only in Islam that we are taught to respect other people and their religious beliefs, but it is also in our constitution! We cannot be talking about a Malaysian Malaysia if we have an attitude that discriminates against segments of our society and argue that it runs in the better interests of the public (which public, the actions have just slighted a sizeable segment of the public!). I would think that this was the fundamental principle of apartheid – the institutionalized practice of discrimination. If this attitude and behavior is not checked by right-minded people in the government and civil society such rot can only get worse.

    As someone mentioned, we were just reading about the ex-Mufti of Perlis getting arrested for no reason (no charges right?). Ok, so you want to arrest people without reason, grey area in this day and age, but to arrest a known scholar with legitimate credentials giving a talk at a friend’s house? Does this mean the Islamic authorities have much more power than the police in terms of arbitrary arrests (they at least still require a warrant, a chain of authority to execute the warrant and a semblance of reason)?

    Already using the excuse of possible khalwat, the religious authorities can enter a private home without a warrant. Now they have extended it to ‘ceramah’? What does this say about the Malay Muslim [Malaysian] rights in Malaysia? Such ‘trusteeship’ mentality towards Malay [Malaysians] has eroded their rights to free citizenship. If the Islamic authorities can force their way into my house without a warrant or without cause, what sort of citizen does that make me? If an adult Muslim chooses to be in like-minded company be it among consenting adults, or talking with friends about religion or politics, or imbibing alcohol in the privacy of their home isn’t that a matter between the mature Muslim and the Almighty? Doesn’t infringing on one’s private space deny one of the rights to think and act independently; a prerequisite to the practice of faith, i.e. the freedom to choose? But that is half the story of course – if half are governed through benign trusteeship, what happens to the other half?

    We are now at a crossroads, where do we want to go? The seeds of separation have been sowed, but it is still weak and floundering. In moving forward, we need to go back to the past and address some of the deep-seated issues and to open back space respecting citizens as free members and promoting a healthy civil society. This is the task of all right-minded people, be they individuals, private enterprises, NGOs, political parties, or public servants. We can all have vastly differing opinions on anything, but let us have one thing in common; we respect the free rights of our fellow Malaysians as full and free citizens as enshrined in our constitution.

    One way forward is of course to come to terms with conflicts in our past through things like the Truth Commission (if I am not mistaken this was done after the dismantling of Apartheid South Africa) – where the process helps people understand the conflict, share the pain and forgive as part of moving on; and, work to make minority infringements such as the horrible reports of alleged rape of Penan girls and women a priority. In my opinion there is something really wrong with a society in this day and age if it cannot even guarantee the protection of minority groups against such transgressions. Protecting minority groups and their rights to free citizenship (and as free citizens) will in turn protect the majority as well. And one way to do that politically of course is to make the instrument for political representation more sensitive to the nuances within society. This requires enlightened leadership and to some extent, public servants but also setting up institutions and practices that seek public feedback more often than 5 years (i.e. the general elections).

  12. Farouq Omaro says:

    To A Christian, thanks, that is exactly what I meant. Peace be with you.

  13. SmartGuy says:

    A few thoughts:
    1. Indonesia appears to be more tolerant and developed than Malaysia.
    2. Islam in Malaysia is becoming radical most likely due to all these [...] Arabs coming to KL.
    3. Get rid of all religions as they divide people and breed intolerance. When there are many gods, you know that they are all created by stupid ancestors (who have never used a mobile phone or Internet).

  14. racist 2 says:

    Agree with Racist, we need to teach Jesus our national language, since some Christians here have lost touch of the original language of the Bible. I bet Jesus must be furious when people are using Bahasa Malaysia for the Bible instead of Aramaic. God Bless Aramaic.

  15. alvin says:

    Ya right, what about the BM as international language thing? To be language of the continent, and the world, and now, cannot use this word, cannot use that word? What crap.

  16. Daniel Chai says:

    Keeping count daily – 1Malaysia, 2Perak, 3MCA, 4CC sacked, 5 Disciplinary Board resignations …15,000 Bibles withheld … and 4,000,000 new voters to count on.

  17. Nicholas Aw says:

    ellese a Posted: 6 Nov 09 : 6.39AM
    I refer to ellese a posted on 6 November: “Why can’t you print using the word “Tuhan”. Rukunegara says kepercayaan kepada Tuhan and not kepercayaan kepada Allah. You’re very insensitive”.

    Pleae don’t be silly. The Rukunegara says ‘Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’ because it is meant for multi-racial Malaysians. ‘Tuhan’ is a general word that means God.

    Nonetheless, I feel that humankind should be allowed to use whatever word they want to refer to God, be it ‘Allah’, ‘Abba’, etc. There is no law in the world that prohbits one from using a certain word. This so-called law is only in Malaysia because of the interpretation and fear of certain people.

  18. Merah Silu says:

    Bishop Ng Moon Hing wrote,
    “We call on the government to walk the talk of its 1Malaysia policy and vision and not to curtail or impose conditions on the freedom of citizens to worship, pray and read the holy scriptures in Bahasa Malaysia. How can the first pillar of the Rukunegara i.e. ‘Belief in God’, be made a living reality in the lives of Malaysians if the government imposes restrictions and conditions on the constitutional and fundamental rights of citizens to freedom of religion?”

    Mr Ng, you have gone too far. Whether you do not understand it, or you choose not to understand it, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists can practice their religion freely in this country. It is stated in the constitution. The constitution, however, is also very clear that Islam is the official religion of this country. Tak kan tak boleh guna Allah dalam bahasa Melayu, sembahyang terganggu. What do you call that God the Father in Swahili, Punjabi, or other languages? Allah? Well you and your attention-seeking group are just trouble-makers.


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