Minister blames ignorance by all for Bible seizures

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(April 16): Tan Sri Joseph Kurup today blamed importers of Bibles, individuals as well as enforcement officers for being "ignorant of the standard operating procedure (SOP)” in the import of the religious book, causing the items to be seized and subsequently raising religious tension.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said the seizure of Bibles containing the word Allah was not the work of Putrajaya.

“We are not in the business of prosecuting our own people,” he told church leaders and importers of the Bibles at a special briefing by the Home Ministry on the SOP on the import of religious books and materials in Kuching.

Journalists were only allowed to listen to Kurup's speech but were ushered out just before the ministry's publications and Quranic text division head, Hashimah Nik Jaafar, spoke on the SOP.

Kurup again said there are no religious curbs on the import of Bibles with the word Allah nor the use of the word in prayers in Sabah and Sarawak.

He reiterated that Putrajaya was not only standing by its pledge to honour the 10-point agreement on the use of "Allah" in the Bibles, particularly the Al-Kitab and the Bup Kudus, and other Christian literature, but will also uphold the religious freedom as spelt out in the Federal Constitution.

The Al-Kitab is the Malay-language Bible widely used in churches in Sabah and Sarawak and the Bup Kudus is the Iban edition used only in Sarawak.

Kurup said the perception that the government was prosecuting Christians with the seizures was therefore incorrect.

“The Barisan Nasional government is a responsible government. We are sworn to protect the Federal Constitution and the freedom of Malaysians to practise their respective religious faith.”

The 10-point agreement drawn up before the Sarawak state elections in 2011 provided that there should be no curbs to import of Bibles in all languages, including those in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia which contained the word “Allah”.

The 10-point solution, which allowed for the printing, importation and distribution of the Al- Kitab, was drawn up following the seizure of a shipment at a Kuching port.

The opposition used the seizure as an issue of religious repression by the BN in the election.

Last November, a Christian pastor from Sabah, Maklin Masiau, was detained and had Christians CDs and books he was carrying seized while on transit at the klia2.

He was returning to Kota Kinabalu from Medan, Indonesia, through the airport in Sepang. He was reportedly carrying 574 books and 419 CDs.

Masiau had first posted on his Facebook page that the CDs and books were seized by Customs Department officers because they contained the controversial word Allah.

Hashimah later clarified that they were seized as Maisau did not have an import permit for foreign publications brought into the country.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi blamed the seizure on the failure of the Customs Department to coordinate the matter with his ministry.

To clear up the inter-departmental mess, Kurup said new guidelines would be drawn up to ensure that Christian materials bound for East Malaysia will not be confiscated at ports and airports.

However, when asked on the “new” guideline, Kurup said there was none and that the existing guideline “was already there”.

He said the briefing today was to place emphasis on the proper paper work. – The Malaysian Insider