3/14/11 Malaysia (AsiaNews) – The largest Christian organization in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, said it is “fed up” of the government’s refusal to allow the distribution of tens of thousands of Bibles.
It argues that it is an affront to religious freedom. It is a rare protest by the Christian Federation of Malaysia. It ‘s also a sign of growing impatience among the religious minorities, over the dispute, now years old, on the government ban on the use of the word “Allah” as a translation of the word “God” in the Bible and Christian religious texts in the Malay language.
Federation president, Bishop Ng Moon Hing said that the authorities are holding 30 thousand copies of the Bible in Malay in a port of the island of Borneo. This is the latest attempt by Christians to import Bibles, particularly from Indonesia, after previous attempts failed. There are no problems for texts in English.
The Federation has issued a statement in which says that “Christians are greatly disillusioned, tired and irritated” by the continuing blockade of Bibles. “It would seem that the authorities are conducting an ongoing program, surreptitiously and systematically against Christians in Malaysia, denying them access to the Bible in Malay language.”
The Interior Ministry has not responded. The government on similar occasions in the past has admitted that there was a prohibition, but argued that it was the fault of the importer who had failed to fulfil certain formalities. In reality the problem stems from the government’s position that the use of the term ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim texts might confuse Muslims, and even lead to conversion to Christianity. Almost two thirds of the 28 million people are Malay Muslims, while 25% are Chinese and 8% are Indians. Ethnic minorities are overwhelmingly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
In December 2009 a court ruled that Christians have the constitutional right to use the terme “Allah”. The government has appealed against the verdict, but no hearing has yet been set. The Court’s decision in January 2010 caused temporary tensions, and anger of Muslim extremists. Eleven churches were attacked. The Catholic Church has reissued a Latin- Malaysian dictionary more than 400 years old to prove the ancient use of the word “Allah” in a Christian sense in the country. (22/01/2011 400 year-old Malaysian-Latin Dictionary: proof of use of the word Allah)