RETURNING the Bibles confiscated by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) last April to its owners, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), took months because the matter was delayed by the infighting within PKR. Given the threat of instability caused by the intention that initially would have placed the party’s de facto head as replacement to the then menteri besar of Selangor, every other issue seemed insignificant by comparison. And the Malay Bibles containing the word “Allah” was one of these. Ultimately, the final decision, which was left to the sultan as head of Islam by virtue of being Selangor’s monarch, was arrived at based on the 10-point solution endorsed by the cabinet in 2011. This agreement between the government and Christian groups allowed for Bibles in all languages, including the Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesian translations, to be imported.
Reports immediately credited the achievement to Selangor’s new MB, Mohamed Azmin Ali, who seemed happy to play along with the misperception. The reporters must bear the blame because if the story was followed as it unfolded over the months, this equation would not have arisen. Firstly, when the raid occurred the MB was Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. He had advised the sultan that the decision was the latter’s to make. On that cue, His Highness instructed the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) to refer the matter to the Attorney-General. The A-G, in turn, returned with the decision that no laws were broken and advised Mais to not take the matter to court. This is the history culminating in the recent return of the Bibles to the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS). The incumbent MB was only in attendance and had nothing to do with the final resolution to the impasse. In fact, according to a palace insider, the Selangor ruler made it a point not to involve any politician so as to prevent the possibility of endless bickering.
Why anyone would jump to such a hasty conclusion is anyone’s guess given that the raid by Jais on the BSM occurred well before Azmin replaced Khalid. Maybe the fault was Khalid’s. Accused of not being politically savvy — one of the excuses harnessed by his party to oust him — he felt no need to keep the public informed. The facts are clear and actually reported in the press, the only omission being the state government’s intervention, which is to not intervene. Indeed, the sultan is head of only Islam. But he is monarch to all residents of Selangor, which makes his mediation appropriate. Mais, in its effort to secure the faith of its flock, has one caveat. These Bibles cannot be distributed in Selangor, especially not to Muslims, as it is its right to assert. After all, even in Indonesia proselytising to those already of the faiths recognised by the state constitution is forbidden. Enlisting respect from all is, therefore, the key.
NST Editorial 17 NOVEMBER 2014 @ 8:07 AM