Borneo NGO queries ‘return’ of seized Bibles

No one can dictate how anyone should or should not address his or her God.

Joe Fernandez | November 15, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: The UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Borneo Foundation (Bopim), a human rights NGO working across the political divide, has queried the “strict conditions” attached to the return of 351 copies of the Bible in Malay and Iban seized in Jan by the religious authorities in Selangor on the grounds that it contains the Arabic term “Allah” for God, deemed exclusive to Muslims.

The NGO has taken the position that the religious authorities concerned may have deluded themselves into thinking that this is the mother of all “face saving gestures”.

“These religious authorities may think that they can direct that the returned Bibles should not be distributed in the state, especially among Muslims,” notes Bopim President Daniel John Jambun in a reaction to the apparent ending of the saga. “But on what grounds are they dictating where they should be distributed?

“They cannot claim that places outside Selangor also come within their jurisdiction.”

Also, he pointed out, that there are more than 20 Ibans in Selangor and more than 331 other Sarawakians and Sabahans in the state.

“Twenty Ibans and 331 other Borneons in Selangor should not be deprived of these Bibles,” he added. “The thousands of Sabahans and Sarawakians in Selangor should also not be deprived of the Bible in Iban and Malay.”

Daniel has also queries for the religious authorities in Selangor who returned the seized Bibles.

He wonders how these authorities will monitor how the returned Bibles will be distributed.

“Will they be accompanying the returned Bibles to KLIA2 and making sure on which flight they are loaded and probably following the flight as well? he asked. “Has the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), which owns the returned Bibles, been instructed on this?”

The Bopim Chief’s “amazement” on the Bible saga doesn’t end there.

He notes that the religious authorities have not expressed even one word of remorse over the seizure of the Bibles nor offered an apology.

Instead, they continue to maintain that they worry the seized Bibles were part of a plot by Christians to lead Malay youth astray, he further noted. “It’s wonderful that there are at least 20 Malay youths in Selangor who can read Iban,” said Daniel in offering his congratulations to those 20 Malay youths in Selangor who are proficient in Iban.

One final point that he wants to make is that it’s syirik (blasphemy) in Islam to concede that there’s more than one God. He wants to know the collective stand of the religious authorities in Selangor and other states including Sabah and Sarawak, Jakim and the National Fatwa Committee on this matter.

“It’s obvious to any sane person that no one can dictate how anyone should or should not address his or her God,” stressed Daniel. “No Court, Government, law, or fatwa can dictate that Allah is exclusive to Muslims.”

He called on those running amok with religion in the country to return to sanity and not continue to make “a laughing stock of themselves in the eyes of the world” but nevertheless conceded that “it’s their call”.