Malaysian Authorities Seize Bibles in ‘Allah’ Row

epa03909226 A Muslim man holds a prayer beads while recites a prayer during a protest against the use of the word 'Allah' by a Christian weekly magazine as a translation of 'God', in front of the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 14 October 2013. A Malaysian appeals court ruled that only Muslims can use the word 'Allah' to refer to God, upholding a government ban on the word being used in a Catholic publication. The controversy started in 2008 when the government prohibited Catholic publication The Herald from using the word 'Allah', and the church filed a court case questioning the order.  EPA/SHAMSHAHRIN SHAMSUDIN

A Muslim man holds prayer beads while reciting a prayer during a protest against the use of the word ‘Allah’ by a Christian weekly magazine, in front of the Court of Appeals in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 14, 2013. (EPA Photo/Shamshahrin Shamsudin)

Malaysian Islamic authorities on Thursday seized hundreds of Bibles from a Christian group and detained two of their officers, one of them said, amid tensions over the use of “Allah.”

A court in October barred a Malaysian Catholic newspaper from using “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in its Malay-language edition — a verdict welcomed by Muslim conservatives, but which sparked concern among Christians, a minority in the multi-faith country.

After the verdict, Prime Minister Najib Razak, walking a tightrope between pleasing his conservative Muslim ethnic Malay base without alienating the country’s non-Muslim minorities, assured Christians their practice would not be threatened.

But Islamic officials from central Selangor state, just next to the capital Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday seized 16 boxes containing more than 300 Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia, the society’s president Lee Min Choon said.

Lee said he and a colleague were also detained “under a state law, which prohibits the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.”

The seized Bibles, imported from neighboring Indonesia where Malay is also spoken, were in Malay and Iban, a language spoken by one of the country’s indigenous groups.

“We have been using [the Bibles] ever since the society started [in 1985], and even before that,” Lee told AFP by mobile phone from a police station. “This is the first time we have been raided.”

It was not clear whether Lee and his colleague would continue to be held or charged. Officials from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

The dispute over the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims erupted in early 2009, when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the publishing permit of the Catholic newspaper the Herald for using the word.

Authorities said using “Allah” in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert.

The Catholic Church sued, claiming violation of its constitutional rights.

A court upheld the Church’s argument later that year and lifted the ban. But a higher court overturned that ruling in October, reinstating the ban.

The ban’s removal triggered a series of attacks on places of worship in early 2010, mostly churches, using Molotov cocktails, rocks and paint, and sparked fears of wider religious conflict.

Muslims make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million people, while Christians account for about nine percent.

Malaysia has largely avoided overt religious conflict in recent decades, but tensions have slowly risen along with what many perceive as an increasing Islamisation of the Southeast Asian country.

Agence France-Presse

  • devine

    Malaysia truly Asia ?

    • lalala

      truly stupid

  • Botak

    “Allah” an Arab word with a Malay copyright on it??

  • adrian

    Wha.. I couldn’t even…

  • Botak

    If there are any Arabian Christians in Malaysia, what are they going to use, the English version God or Lord? Because with this law they wouldn’t be allowed to use the word god in their own language = “Allah”

    Pathetic ruling by the Malaysian court.

  • sinwi

    So insecure…

  • H. Tobing

    Next we will see is an advertisement from Lucas Duncan offering cheap Malay bibles for sale here.

  • Good,Bad and Ugly

    This is a decision which would make Aceh proud, since anything Aceh does is an insult to intelligence.

    • lalala

      soon they will follow, I’m sure

  • lalala

    Did they just acknowledge that muslim people are stupid therefore we cannot use Allah in non- Muslim lit so they wont get confused and entice to convert? now that is really something

  • Franklin Masayon

    Religious intolerance? Religious indifference? or stupidity and ignorance???… we live in the age of computers and people have been going and coming back from the moon and the outerspace.. It is very sad to know that some people want to go back to the Dark Ages. tsk tsk! Pathetic buffaloes.

    • H. Tobing

      By that pic, your place of origin seems to be the moon.

  • Botak

    “Any Imam that tells you God has a name, is blasphemous. It is as simple
    as that. Allah is not God’s name. Muslims do not own the word itself,”
    said the 41-year-old Iranian-American, who is Visiting Professor of
    Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa.

    Interesting read at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/award-winning-american-muslim-scholar-on-the-allah-decision-we-are-laughing

  • TGIF

    Now how the would Malaysians believe the Arab Christians call God? Allah is a word referring to god in Arabic. Plain and simple. And here I thought the Malaysians are smarter than that. They were plenty of Malaysian students in the US studying under their government program in the 80′s, what happened to their exposure abroad and bringing back an open minded mentality. Religion none sense speaks louder. No human beings own that word only Allah can judge…