Islamic intolerance of non-Muslims in Malaysia is heightening, as Islamic authorities seized 321 Malay-language Bibles from the Bible Society Thursday.
Bible Society of Malaysia Chairman Lee Min Choon said, “We were told that we were under investigation for breaking a Selangor state law banning non-Muslims from using the word Allah.” Two of the Bible society’s officials were taken to a police station, made statements, and were then released on bail.
The raid to take the Bibles was catalyzed by a ruling by a Malaysian court in October that use of the word “Allah” was only allowed to Muslims, and the centuries-old practice of Malaysian Christians referring to God in the Bible was illegal. That decision overturned a lower court decision in 2010 that permitted a Malay-language Roman Catholic newspaper to use “Allah” to refer to God.
The 2010 decision was the stimulus for the firebombings of several churches by Islamists.
According to a 2010 census, Muslims comprise 61.3% of the Malaysian population, followed by Buddhists at 19.8%, Christians at 9.2%, and Hindus at 6.3%, with Confucianists, Taoists, and other traditional Chinese religions behind these.
The new ruling worries non-Muslims as it gives the Islamic authorities more power to rule over civil courts. Some observers commented that the new pattern of rulings directed against non-Muslims is the government’s way of redirecting the anger from impoverished Malay Muslims over subsidy cuts that could increase electricity, petrol, and sugar prices.
Prior to the latest raid, Bibles imported from Indonesia had been seized at border checkpoints, but the new raid was the first in which Islamic authorities invaded a Christian organization itself. Selangor has become a haven for Christians from Malaysia’s rural states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo, because there is more work to be found there.
Meanwhile, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which is the chief party in Najib’s ruling coalition, boasted that its Selangor members would mount protests on Sunday at all churches in Selangor against Christians using the word Allah. Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin supported the action, saying, “There are laws in Selangor and there was a decree by his Royal Highness the Sultan. So what they are doing is carrying out the Sultan’s decree. They are not doing anything against the law.”
The Sultan of Selangor, who presently serves as Malaysian head of state, decreed last year that non-Muslims were forbidden from using Allah in Bibles. He told Muslims to unite against “bad elements” that were using the word.