Tag Archives: international

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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Police becoming co-conspirators with Hindu extremists

NEW DELHI, December 31 – In their campaign against Christians, Hindu extremists in India are increasingly relying on a key weapon: police officers. Local police in Bangalore recently arrested and harassed five workers from the Indian Church of Christ after Hindu extremists attacked the Christians in the capital of Karnataka state. Police from the Indira Nagar police station arrested the five Christians but allowed the attackers to go free. Rights activists have long been calling for reform in the police system. “The police, who are supposed to protect all citizens from criminal assaults, are often found to be conniving with the ruling government to organize religion-related violence or harass the victims hoping to get bribes,” said a representative of the Christian Legal Association.

-Compass Direct News

Muslim extremists force two Indonesian churches to close

JAKARTA — Attacking the house of a Baptist pastor and protesting the presence of a Catholic temple, radical Muslim groups got authorities to close down two churches in the past two weeks. In Banten province, extremists from the Islamic Defender Forces (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI) on November 21 attacked the Tangerang home of the Rev. Bedali Hulu, pastor at Jakarta Christian Baptist Church , kicking out doors and windows, breaking glass and throwing the pastor’s belongings from the house. The church had been meeting in the pastor’s home. As a result of the violent objections to the church, Rev. Hulu met with Pisangan Jaya village leaders on November 22 – with the result that officials asked him to leave the territory until tensions cooled. Activities at the church, which has a permit and is registered with Religious Affairs authorities, came to a halt. In West Jakarta , about 75 Muslim demonstrators on November 23 demanded a halt to worship at Damai Kristus ( Christ’s Peace), a Catholic church in Kampung Duri. The raging protestors were ostensibly upset that the church didn’t have a permit for expansion – local authorities had reportedly denied the parish priest’s application without explanation. After tense discussions, the area Muslims eventually produced a letter from the Tambora district head requiring the church to cease activities.

-Compass Direct News

India grants adoption rights to non-Hindus; law could help 56 million orphaned & destitute children

NEW DELHI — Ending a long era of absence of adoption rights for non-Hindus, the government has cleared the way for all religious communities in all Indian states to adopt legally. The government of the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance on October 26 gave notice of new rules under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act or JJA of 2006, making room for all communities to adopt. The Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said his group welcomed “the significant move” by the federal government “to enhance the legal rights of adopted children and the couples who adopt them.” It is estimated that barely 5,000 children a year are adopted in the country, though there are more than 56 million orphaned and destitute children.

-Compass Direct News