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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Systematic restriction on Christianity

The Christian Federation of Malaysia says that both the government and certain segments of society are to be blamed for this.

PETALING JAYA: There has been a systematic restriction on the practice of Christianity in this country, said the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) today.

According to CFM chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing, both the government and certain segments of society were to be blamed for this.

“There has been a systematic and progressive pushing back of the public space to practice, profess and express our faith.

“For example, the wearing and displaying of crosses and other religious symbols, using religious words and constructing places of worship have been restricted,” he said in a media statement.

Ng said that CFM was against the restrictions placed on the Bible as well as the language of choice in “the practice of our religion.”

He then cited Malaysia’s guarantee of freedom of religion in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution, and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More than 35,000 copies of the Malay-language Al-Kitab were detained in Port Klang and Kuching as the books were deemed a threat to national security.

After much public pressure, the government agreed to release the bibles but not before stamping the Home Ministry’s official seal on them, along with a “For Christians Only” label.

Remove every impediment

This led the bibles’ importers to refuse the copies, with numerous Christian groups around the country accusing the government of desecrating the holy books.

Ng said that the government needed to respect the Christian community’s right to use the Al-Kitab.

“We call on the government to remove every impediment, whether legal or administrative, to the importation, publication, distribution and use of the Al-Kitab,” he said.

He added that this included revoking orders made under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 that considered the Malay-language bible a security threat.

Ng also said that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 should not be applied to the affected bibles either.

Although he said that CFM was willing to work with the government on the matter, he nevertheless criticised the government for not consulting the affected parties before stamping the Al-Kitab.

Disallowed in many Peninsular states, the Al-Kitab’s usage would not be restricted in East Malaysia. This is due to Islamic law enactments set in states governed by the Malay sultanate.

Nearly half of Sarawak’s population is Christian, with many believers there more familiar with the Malay language.

The Al-Kitab matter is not the first Christian issue to have been brought up in recent times.

Last year, a massive row erupted over the use of the word “Allah” by the Malay version of the Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald.

Subsequent events led to a number of churches being firebombed.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration was also not exempt from the alleged restriction on religious symbols.

In December, one of his aides allegedly instructed Catholic church officials to remove crucifixes and to avoid singing hymns during Najib’s Christmas visit to the Archbishop of KL. - FMT

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