Alkitab Row: Federal Government Overtures rejected

March 30, 2011

Alkitab Row: The CFM rejected Federal Government Overtures

by Debra

Christian Federation of Malaysia

Founded in 1986.

Mission Statement: We, who are Christians belonging to different Christian churches, denominations and organizations but professing the same Christian faith, have resolved to form the Christian Federation of Malaysia through which we, as a community, shall endeavour, together with other religious communities, to play our part as loyal and useful citizens of our nation.

“No religious community will ever want to suffer the indignity of having its sacred scriptures banned and prohibited as though it is some seditious material or a contraband product considered immoral.”

“That this has [been] done repeatedly over so many years is an affront and insult to the religious community concerned and raises very serious questions about the status of religious freedom and respect for other religions in our country.”–Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) rejected today the federal government’s overture in the Alkitab row, saying it did not resolve the core issue which is the erosion of basic human rights protected by the Federal Constitution.

The umbrella body representing over 90 per cent of churches here was referring specifically to Putrajaya’s offer to mask the Home Ministry’s stamp and serial numbering of 35,100 copies of the Malay bibles shipped in from Indonesia last week, as laid down last week by its Christian minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is in charge of government and economic transformation.

Jala, in his statement on March 22, also said that certain Christian donors had also offered to fully replace, free of charge, the two marked cargoes at Port Klang and Kuching, which had been seized and detained by home ministry officials.

The CFM did not seem mollified by Jala’s attempts to placate the community, maintaining that the act — which had been carried out quietly and without the bible importers’ consent — amounted to a desecration of the Christian holy book and an outright show of disrespect, breaching the guarantees of this country’s highest law.

“Our position is that there should be no restrictions, proscriptions or prohibitions whatsoever on the bible or the use of the language of our choice in the practice of our religion, as it was in the days before and after the formation of Malaysia,” CFM said in a statement here today, adding that the Alkitab issue was not the only restriction.

It noted that there has been a “systematic and progressive pushing back” of Christian rights — dating back to the 1980s — namely the right to practise, profess and express their faith.

It pointed to a series of restrictions imposed on Christians, such as the freedom to wear and openly display religious symbols, like the cross; the building of churches; and even what words can be used in a Christian religious context.

The Catholic Church and other Christian groups and individuals on both sides of the South China Sea have challenged the home minister for imposing those restrictions, which centre on the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah”, but their cases have been stuck in queue in the courts since 2008 with no end in sight.

“In order to move forward, we call on the Government to commit itself once and for all to remove every impediment, whether legal or administrative, to the importation, publication, distribution and use of the Alkitab and indeed to protect and defend our right to use the Alkitab,” it said.

It demanded the federal government start by cancelling all orders made under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, as well as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, which categorised the Alkitab as a threat to national security and public order.

“Christians, like any other Malaysians, are not demanding for anything beyond our constitutional and fundamental human rights as enshrined in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said the group, led by its chairman, Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing.

CFM also said that it would leave the decision of what to do with the marked cargo to the affected importers, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons.

“We have left it to the two importers to decide whether or not to collect the Alkitab, based on their different specific circumstances and level of trust in the authorities and the processes in their local context,” it said.

With polls set to be called in Sarawak in just over two weeks, the controversy is expected to weigh on the minds of Christians who make up nearly close to half of the hornbill state’s total population.

Friends and Fellow Bloggers,

I introduce to you the passionate Advocate of “Respect for the Dignity of Difference”, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. Listen to him with an open mind and then let us discuss his presentation rationally. How do we end this rivalry of siblings.–Din Merican

70 thoughts on “Alkitab Row: Federal Government Overtures rejected

  1. This is a very dismal state of affairs. 1Malaysia what! I wonder why Minister Idris Jala, Ramon Navaratnam and others of the Christian Faith have not made strong representations to the Federal Government. I am also puzzled that Hardev Kaur of the Prime Minister’s Office has also remained silent on a issue that could impact on the Sikh religion in the future if it is not nipped in the bud.–Din Merican

  2. With the many constitutional safeguards in our Federal Constitution 1957, it is only to be expected that the issue of Christian Bibles in Bahasa Indonesia (read: Bahasa Melayu) offered for public circulation would test the government resolve to safeguard the constitutional status of Islam and to prohibit the proselytization of the Malays who are ‘deemed Muslims by law’ attributed to a nondescript and little known constitutional provision meant to help with definitions: Article 160(2).

    But the position of the natives of Borneo is less clear. And East Malaysia has always been a battle field for the two major religions for the hearts and souls of these natives. For years it has been a fertile ground for foreign missionaries. Visiting pastors overcome by missionary zeal have often fallen foul of the federal government and have had had their work permits cancelled without recourse to the courts. As Malaysia takes on a more Muslim character and Islamization of aspects of public life becomes official policy, the clash is inevitable and nowhere is it more evident than in East Malaysia where Chrisitianity has a foothold.

    I would like to ask the good Bishop who raised Article 11(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution 1957 why he framed the issue in the way he did i.e.

    “Christians, like any other Malaysians, are not demanding for anything beyond our constitutional and fundamental human rights as enshrined in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitutin …”

    Shoudn’t he have said “every person” because that is what the Constitution states — and not every Christian?

  3. Dato’,

    It’s not rocket science. Those names you mentioned work for UMNO. There is no such thing as 1 Malaysia. Just all for 1 UMNO and their lapdogs!!! That’s the true state of affairs!

  4. I am also puzzled that Hardev Kaur of the Prime Minister’s Office has also remained silent on a issue that could impact on the Sikh religion in the future if it is not nipped in the bud.–Din Merican

    Shouldn’t you also be puzzled by the silence of civil society advocates who defended the right of Malays to choose their religion, a constitutional right guaranteed under Article 11(1), like Haris Ibrahim — who defended the Kelantanese Four in 2004?

    This is one hot potato which understandably the good Bishop has avoided handling.

  5. The Malayan Minister of home affairs is behaving like a childish snob … just grow up , we are living in the 21st century.. Haven’t he and his Muslim colleagues in government not realize that Islam is all about persuasion and not about dominance… stop turning this ‘Allah’ hiccup into a political game .

  6. As the good Bishop said,

    Malaysia suffers not so much from the UMNO-BN’s ignorance of what nation building is all about but more so by their negligence.

    Very profoundly stated. All other criticisms of the present UMNO-BN are variations of this same thought.

  7. danil, it’s not this HM only. It’s the whole coterie of them. They can’t find themselves out of this conundrum.
    Did you know there are thousands of us who even though have declare ourselves as Christians while applying for MyKad, are given the status: No Religion or Buddhist or Hindu etc? While the Registrar might feel very shiok about this and the fact we don’t want to waste our time correcting THEIR deliberate ‘mistake’ – we shall know what to do or have been doing, all this while.

  8. The younger Muslims here today, have no idea what Christianity is about. The can’t distinguish between a Catholic, a Protestant nor an Orthodox. They end up making all sorts of wild speculations. Some have desecrated the Eucharist/Holy Communion with impunity while others attribute ‘magical’ properties to this sacrament. This will continue and the Church as a whole will have to forbear. Such ignorance runs so deep that even our Dear Leaders confuse themselves. Not that it matters.

    No Religious Community is immune to the high-handedness of these irreligious, loathsome Political Leaders. To be honest, i do not see any point in taking such religious quarrels to temporal courts of Law, beyond what has already been done.

    The last GE, was a watershed in many ways. The Churches while remaining politically correct in taking a Neutral stand did have a tremendous influence on their congregations. I usually tune off when the sermon comes to praying for the “Authorities”. It’s what’s implied in between the many words that are important.

  9. “It noted that there has been a “systematic and progressive pushing back” of Christian rights — dating back to the 1980s — namely the right to practise, profess and express their faith.”

    It is not just the right of Christians but Malaysians of all races. There is no such thing as ‘Christian rights’.

  10. It is good that Malaysia has not followed the way of some African countries and indulge in female genital mutilation or FGM – a United Nation term to describe or akin to it, what King Arthur did to Sir Lancelot as he tried to please Lady Guinevere.

  11. Get ready guys! Tok Mudin – no relation of Tok Cik – is coming. For those who have grown back theirs over the years may want to make themselves available.

  12. “There is no such thing as ‘Christian rights’.”

    True, Bean. But I think the Bishop withheld on the obvious, as he is not able to speak for others. All the religions are also suffering under their yoke of suppression, oppression, hypocrisy and cynical manipulation.

    The Christians feel it most, because of their education, financial clout and organizational strength. As it is, some Evangelical churches are coerced to forgo the symbolisms of faith and can only be registered as NGOs or “community centers”. When this happens, all sorts of post-modernist ‘techniques’ creep in – where advertorials, marketing, entertainment and amusement start to cater for worldly lifestyles and unwholesome preoccupations. They have everything theater has except to offer the “Homoousion”.
    I would think that Frank, amongst many others have been exposed to such Benny Hinn-ish displays of false piety and externalized religiosity. Me? I belong to the “Ship of Fools”.

  13. I don’t know which is more pathetic. The argument that malaysian muslims’ faith will be shaken by bibles written in Malay or that Allah is exclusively muslims’ and that other religions have their own god. The latter violates the Syahadah no?

    Everytime some MSD officers came to our colleges to promote Malaysia, we just giggled everytime they mentioned the word mutual respect among races and religions in Malaysia.

  14. ‘Murtad Mama’ is a product of biracial marriage. Her mom is white and father Malay. She’s a deeply conflicted individual. I think she converted for the wrong reasons.

  15. I have not read any statements from Sisters in Islam and Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement on this Alkitab issue and freedom of worship. Even liberals like Marina Mahathir and her friends have not come out with their stand on this subject. I guess it is the season to be “politically correct”.

    My own view is that we should respect our constitution, the supreme law of Malaysia. I am also of the view that if one is well anchored in one’s Faith, one should fear another Faith or be influenced by it. In fact, one should be confident enough to learn about other Faiths, and know the difference between our own and others. Respect the Dignity of Difference (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks).–Din Merican

  16. When politicians venture into making religious edicts, injunctions, ordinances and statues, religion itself gets abused and muddled.
    When ulamaks and muftis wear politicians clothes everything goes haywire.

    In the 40s and 50s Malays were very exposed to Christian literature, prayers, symbols, teachings etc. and I have yet to come across a single Malay of those days convert to Christianity.
    How many Malays then got their education from Christian clergy and Christian funded schools?

  17. DIN : Did you say “stand on this subject:?

    Not every “subject” needs a stand to be made, especially this particular one which is nothing but a continuation of the process whereby our country started on the road of mixing politics with religion.

    If there IS a stand to be made let us all insist on keeping religion well away from our political life. That was the way it was in 1957 and that is how it should have remained.

    Politicians already have more than they seem able to handle in running countries. Add religion to this and you are asking for trouble.

  18. The Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) issued press statements calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the Alkitab as well as the resignation of the Home Minister for his disrespect and arrogance, which were carried by The Malaysian Insider and Free Malaysia Today

    For updates on MCLM and our activities please visit or

  19. Yes, I agree with Isa. Take a stand and that is, religion is a dangerous force if it is used for political purposes. Get rid of this “holier than thou” mind-set because that to me is inferiority complex. I am a Muslim, but I learn from my late mother to respect other faiths. Some of my cousins are Roman Catholics. That is their choice to follow their parents’ religion. But I have no problem with them. There is no sibling rivalry between us, so to speak. –Din Merican.

  20. Religion and politics is a volatile mix wherever you find it. That’s a no brainer.

    That is the reason why the American Founding Fathers sought to separate state from religion. They have not been completely successful. But at least they had the wisdom to see what could happen had they bungled the job. The first wave of immigrants were Protestants fleeing persecution in the old country. By the late 1700s there were other denominations. Which denomination to follow? Religion was proving too divisive even then.

    Our Federal Constitution of 1957 has always been a secular one despite the many provisions that seek to safeguard its constitutional status and that of the Malays deemed Muslims by law. Viewed against the philosophy that appears to guide its drafting, the Constitutional amendment introducing a double-tracked system of justice in the mid ’80s – one based on the English common law and the other on shariah law – is probably ultra vires the Constitution.

  21. Sam01,

    I am a product of a mission school – primary to secondary. We attended chapel service on Fridays during those good old pre-Merdeka days. We sang hymns etc. It didn’t change me. I am still a Muslim and so are my peers.

    But don’t tell this to the Perak moron. He’ll declare me a “murtad” (apostate). He and his council of bigots had just passed an edict declaring poco-poco “haram”.

    This idiot has reached the apex of absurdity. I wonder what he’ll do next? Make voyeurism a must if one seeks a one-way ticket to heaven?

    Pak Harun, hang dah buang be’at kah?

  22. In the ’50s the Malays were a minority albeit a substantial minority and Malaya was a country of minorities. Imagine making Islam a minority religion as the “religion of the federation”: Article 3. Elsewhere such a move would be inconceivable. The fact that Islam was made “the religion of the federation” at all was a tribute to Malay nationalists who would not accept independence for anything less. They felt their religion and their Malay way of life was under threat.

  23. Can we ever expect the mufti of Perak or the de facto Minister for religion in prime minister’s department or even al kutty to come up with a quality statement like that of bishop Paul Tan of the catholic church or Bishop Ng from the CFM.

    All we can expect from people like al kutty and his ilk is lies , deceit , blue films , theft of the people’s money and progressive erosion of the rights of 27 million people .

    And Hardev Kaur , the next time you get a letter like that from JAKIM that you passed on to the church like any stupid postman , you should just send the letter back to Jakim and ask them to show the Church and their representatives some RESPECT – period.

    If you don’t , they will think you are a push over and you will become their TOOL IN THE PROCESS OF ERODING THE RIGHTS OF 27 MILLION HUMAN BEINGS.


  24. Bean,

    Thank you for the ” Murtad Mama ” story . It was quite interesting to read.

    There was a similar one here yesterday, in an earlier thread, which was interesting too. It was about Hamas hosting marriages between men in their late 20’s and girls who are not even in their teens . I think Din has removed that posting already .

    Wonder why?

  25. Many a time, politicians of many countries are using religion to control the people, more so when the country is multi-racial/religion. They will try to practise divede and rule by using religion as one of the strategic tools. It is no exception in our country, and we the nation will need to seek wisdom to be able to differentiate who and what is right for us.
    We may bring out all the constitution rights, but how many of us really know much about it, and so the rulings are using that to distort/misguide the people. Thats’ the way of life here.

  26. I am firmly sure who I am going to vote for this coming election.

    Do not under estimate us Sarawakian/Christian here.

  27. Yup cd, it’s time to wake up.
    Take the message deep from the Bario and Sibu throughout the Land. The Spirit is moving.
    Otherwise, the innocent religious and racial pluralism of the native long-house will be a thing of the past. “Modernity” of this kind is definitely divisive and disruptive. I and many others, even of different faiths, will pray for the Sarawakians..
    Do what the Conscience tells you and do not be afraid.

  28. Get ready Ol’ Frank. Religous bigots in both UMNO and PAS are coming for your foreskin.- Mr Bean

    How do you know I still have mine still on?

  29. I am firmly sure who I am going to vote for this coming election. -cd

    Nah!!! When Najib comes calling with paperbags of $$$, I am firmly sure who you are going to vote for this coming election.

  30. Hardev Kaur ??

    Everytime she looks down at her dinner plate, she sees Najib’s face.

    Her loyalty is not to principles but who can put food on her table.

  31. Malaysia,Leave them alone. Let everyone pray the way they wish too, the way that gives them peace, the way that they need to find God. It is their prerogative and their duty to seek the Creator in whatever manner they wish too whatever manner that is gudied by the Creator who is all knowing , all Seeing and all Merciful.

  32. Politicians already have more than they seem able to handle in running countries.- Isa Manteqi

    Politicians have less things to do for the amount of money taxpayers pay for their expensive lifestyle.

    They are all parasites of the worst kind!!!! They contribute nothing to better this world. Lawyers are a tad better than politicians.

  33. Many a time, politicians of many countries are using religion to control the people, more so when the country is multi-racial/religion. – concerned citizen

    WRONG! It is ALL the time.

  34. Good morning Frank.
    Yes, religion must never be externalized. Period.
    Neither must it be manipulated, suppressed and oppressed. And provided it follows the proper social and legal constructs that prevents any practice that can potentially lead to conflict.
    PRC and the Bolsheviks were wrong. And Malaysia is following suite in a different trajectory.

  35. And provided it follows the proper social and legal constructs that prevents any practice that can potentially lead to conflict.-C.L. Familiaris

    Wishful thinking…No way…religion was developed by man to enable it to be manipulated, abused and to be used for control of the illiterate, the uneducated (read UMNO), and the marginalised (read Orang Asli and the Borneo natives in the remote jungles).

  36. To you moslems who profess to have faith in Allah, I say LET Allah DO HIS JOB and NOT you. It is HIS job not yours to watch over his creation. If you oppress and intimidate in this manner then you have no faith in Allah whatsoever.

  37. I say LET Allah DO HIS JOB and NOT you. – Kathy

    Allah was absent at the tsunami disaster in Japan. Is it because Japan is not a muslim country?

    The LIGHT went off in northern Japan.

  38. frank, I need to sit with you separately to deal with your fabulous mind and questioning okay. You are entitled as every one else is.

  39. die Religion ist… das Opium für das Volkes!
    the Opiate for the masses.. said Karl Marx.

    as the russians of the day do, I prefer Vodka Gorbatschow. it is easy to manufacture and does’nt need mosques, temples and churches.

  40. UMNO feels that Malays are so mentally impaired that Allah in Malaysia can only be used by Muslims, whilst Arabs have no problems sharing it with their Christian brothers. In the Middle-East a Fuad, Ali, or Mohamaed can be Muslim or Christians or whatever, but here in Malaysia they all have to be Muslims !! So a Chinaman converting has to give up his name and become Ahmad or Ali.

  41. what I can say to you frank is that tragedies and disaster happens for a reason . And that is too remind us of our humanity. To come together and help those who are facing trageides in their life. To allow us to examine our own humanity when witnessing tragedies of enormous nature and rememebr who and not what is most improtant to us. For us to find our compassion once again adn share that, for us to remember what we are made off and share that. To remind us that when eveything is gone, all that is left, what is left is our Humanity and each other and nothing else matters. That is the purpose of tragedies. To bind us all once again. And form then pon to live differently. To live simply, to love deeply and to care for each other selflessly.

  42. The approach by CFM is not the best way to resol;ve this issue or the many more that will surely crop up from time to time. A “behind closed doors” dialogue way is best for such things, with the media kept well out of reach.

    On another thread – it is not the question of religion of a minority but that of the indigenous population (of Malaya at that time). This, together with our unique formula of political power- sharing, is what gave us such a good start. It is a formula which we should preserve.

  43. It is unfortunate that human beings need huge tragedies to be reminded of humanity but we do . We always forget ,time and again we forget.

  44. luckily for Idris Jala he was born in Sarawak. So he got away with it. I suppose had he been Muslim they would have told hid dad to put in a IDRIS BIN JALA. So Salmiah Hassan is also a non Muslim? Watch out , the Mufti of Perak might come out with a FATWA, just like on the poco poco !!!

  45. Approach by CFM?
    What are you talking about Isa?
    They have not done anything that needs to be approached. They are just rejecting counter-offers, idiocies or bribes if you will.
    They are the aggrieved, not the perpetrators.
    Who needs to approach, when all that’s needed is rejection.
    We do not accept is quite the opposite of: “We demand”!
    Enough of ‘closed doors’ negotiations, for the Christians have long ago discarded that kind of compromise. They will have to face the wild beasts of the Colosseum again. Nothing new.
    This rejection is passive, not active as most will be wont to read it as.

  46. In Fukushima, God appears to many to be an absentee landlord or a pro bono real estate agent.

    But let’s not forget, all mankind is paying for the Original Sin – with death and suffering since Eve saw it fit to manipulate Adam’s mind and has since been made to suffer pain from childbirth herself. It is sins committed by Man against Man that we are concerned here.

    God has nothing to do with it.

  47. On a different note, when we introduce God into our Constitution, it is like giving a bottle of French Pinot Noir to go with fine Kobe beef to a teetotaler. Excuse the analogy.

    He will be free to roam and stomp. The result? The original document is no longer recognizable.

  48. There is rejection and then there is rejection…Whichever way we look at it, rejection too has an approach. The one chosen by CFM is certainly not the most suitable.

    And there can never be enough of “closed door negotiations” especially in trying times such as now.

  49. The Malaysian government has fallen to the same level as that American preacher who wanted to burn the Quran some time back.

  50. am firmly sure who I am going to vote for this coming election. -cd

    Nah!!! When Najib comes calling with paperbags of $$$, I am firmly sure who you are going to vote for this coming election.

    Frank – March 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Is that how you vote Frank?

  51. Isa,
    It is said: “Let your yes be yes and no, no.”
    Are there many ways of saying “No”?
    Not to the Christian. When it comes down to the crunch, we are all the same.
    Rejection or acceptance. No in betweens nor niceties. The decision process takes time for discernment, but once made, they persevere.

    Let’s say it’s an equivalent to a “talaq 3”, whether it’s by words spoken, hard-copy or sms.

    “No” needs no approach, but reproach or avoidance. “Yes” needs approach. Nothing to do with recalcitrance, stubbornness nor impoliteness.

  52. Yo cd,
    Frank is challenging you and others. That is how he speaks. Appreciate it, in humility.
    A “Skeptic” is he who holds on to the truth which is fragile.
    A “Stoic” is he who bends reality to suit his comfort.
    You are neither. Do what is in you.

  53. CLF : Sorry but you have lost me in your thread. We are talking about ways to resolve issues that have, unfortunately, been allowed to become “sensitive”.

  54. Isa,
    It has ended. CFM will not issue another statement for quite a while more. It has been resolved. No ‘mediation’ is necessary as there is no longer conflict. No anger nor anxiety anymore.
    Neither is there sensitivity from now on.
    The desecrated Bibles will be stored in a vault for eternity. Talk is cheap and hot air. Money and repatriation has no meaning.

    We understand the system as it stands and wish not to partake in it. That’s all there is to it.

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