Malaysian government confiscates books

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Adding to the furor over whether non-Muslims have the right to use the word “Allah” in their publications and religious practice, on January 11 online news agency Malaysiakini reported that officials confiscated English-language Christian children’s books because they contained images of prophets. 

The government reportedly said Internal Security Ministry officials confiscated the books because their illustrations of prophets offended the sensitivities of Muslims. Islam, which shares some prophets in common with Christianity, prohibits the portrayal of prophets.  

Enforcement officials of the Publications and Al-Quran Texts Control Department under the Internal Security Ministry, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, reportedly confiscated the books from three MPH bookstores in Johor Bahru, Senawang and Ipoh in mid-December.  The books have been sent to the department’s headquarters in Putrajaya for investigation. Managers of the MPH bookstores reportedly said they will wait for the Internal Security Ministry’s decision on the books. 

In a statement released yesterday (January 17) , the Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia questioned how the books could be offensive to Muslims when they were not meant for them.  

In the strongly worded statement about the seizures, Shastri said government officials “have no right and have overstepped their bounds by confiscating Christian literature.”  He urged the prime minister and his Cabinet to take immediate action to put a stop to such seizures and to “amend administrative rules and regulations especially in the Internal Security Ministry that give a free hand to enforcement officials to act at their whim and fancies.”  

At the same time, the debate over whether non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” in publications and religious practice was stoked when the Internal Security Ministry told the Sun on Wednesday (January 16) that it had confiscated a total of 163 publications comprising 18 titles from bookshops nationwide.  A ministry official told the daily that the seizures were made because the word “Allah” was used in the books. But Deputy Internal Ministry Minister Johari Baharum reportedly said that the ministry did not target Christian books. 

“We do routine checks all year long,” he said. “We don’t only seize Christian books, but other [religious] books as well.”   

The deputy minister said use of the words, “Allah” (Arabic for God), “baitullah” (mosque in Mecca), “solat” (prayer) and “kaabah” (Islamic shrine in Mecca) are exclusive to Islam, according to Gazette PU (A) 15/82 and circular KKDN S.59/3/6/A dated December 5, 1986.  In a letter to the press, Gayathry Venkiteswaran, executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, argued that “seizing more than the needed copies for investigation while the titles are not banned, denies the right of the people to access the book and is clearly high-handed.” 

The right of non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” in their publications and practice of their religion is being tested in two court cases by the publisher of the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, and the Evangelical Church of Borneo (Sidang Injil Borneo).

 -Jasmine Kay, Compass Direct News  

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One response to “Malaysian government confiscates books

  1. As I understand it, the word “Allah” is a derivative word of the Sanskrit language. Similes would be Akka and Amba. This should come as no surprise as the original 360 deity statues were of Hindu origin anyway, as was King Vikramadiya’s inscription on the golden dish contained within the Ka’abah itself. The same black stone contained within the Kaabah is called the “Hajra Aswad”. Ironically the Hindu Lingghi or Lingham, is also called the Sanghey Ashweta. Both words have their origins in the Sanskrit language. Please consult your favorite linguist for verification. I stress linguist, and NOT religious advocate, to reduce any possible “unbiasness”. (geseran Bahasa)

    Coming back to the name “Allah”, it has been established that the Sanskrit language translates it as “Mother”, or “Goddess”, or “Mother Goddess”. This appellation has been retained by the Muslims, some say as a form of continuity, and for the ease of transition of the people’s religion of the middle-east from Hinduism and Paganism to Islam. Mecca was already the pilgrimage focal-point of the Hindus & Pagan Arabs as their Holy Site for centuries pre-dating the birth of the prophet Muhammad (real name Ahmad). In fact, the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (saw) was one of the keepers of the then Pagan Ka’abah. One of his duties included the daily cleaning of the 360 golden pagan statues contained within this Holy Place.

    The parallel Christian story is, that Dec 25th was really the Birthday of Horus (Son of Isis 4,000bc) and NOT the birthday of Jesus. The Roman Pope “canonized” it to minimize the transitional “shock” from Paganism to Roman Catholism. Thus, certain “traditions” are kept for ease of religious transitional purposes.

    To preserve inter-faith religious harmony, I will not get into the discussions of the shaving of heads, or the perambulations as practiced by both the Hindu and Islamic religions when performing pilgrimage at the Kaa’bah. It raises too may doctrinal questions.

    I will however, highlight:
    Surah 3 verse 48
    “And He (Allah) will teach him the Scripture, and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel(Bible).”
    Surah 3 verse 3
    ”He (Allah) hath revealed unto thee the Scripture with Truth, confirming that which was before it even as He (Allah) revealed the Torah and the Gospel (Bible).”

    You might also want to read about the additional definitions of the name of Allah at for even more alternative views.

    So perhaps the Christian Community should NOT be using the term “Allah” in their Alkitab, even though Khadijah’s cousin, Waraqah (Christian Pastor), had been preaching Christianity using the same name of “Allah” from his Arabic Talmud/Torah and his Injil/ Kitab (book of Matthew only). Although the Christian community may be historically correct when using the term “Allah”, they may face some inferred “paganistic conflicts” as the term “Allah” also has female connotations in the Sanskrit origin of its derivative. They should instead be adhering to either Yahweh, Yehovah among the many other names of God so as to be more theologically “accurate”. Christianity after all, insist that their God is a He.

    Final Word, IMHO, Christians should NOT use the term “Allah” in their Alkitab or any other publication when referring to their God.

    “Uncle” Pak Lah, maybe you should have let the “INTER-FAITH” Conference proceed instead of canceling it. Now you have a very confused nation. Each citizen not fully understanding one another’s religions. Leaving everyone in a very confused and sorry state.