Monday, March 28, 2011

Christians inviting trouble over Alkitab row, say Muslim NGOs

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — Christians are inviting trouble with their provocative and extremist stand over resolving the impounding of Malay Bibles, an umbrella body representing 19 Muslim non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said today.

The group, which calls itself the Islamic Defenders Organisation (Pembela), accused Malaysia’s minority Christian community of deliberately hurting the feelings of the majority Muslim community with its police reports and harsh statements in its attempt to resolve the ongoing Alkitab row, as the controversy has come to be known.

In its statement today, Pembela demanded that the Christian groups involved in the row return to the mutual respect among religious followers based on the Federal Constitution, legal provision and various other official decisions.

It warned that the “pressure and provocation will cause national political leaders to feel weak and on the losing end and will give in to whatever is asked for by the extremist groups without taking into account the position of Islam in the constitution, history and culture; or provocation and continued breach against feelings and sensitivities of Muslims will cause tension and invite reaction from Muslim who are hard to control by anyone.”

“We want to ask: How far do they want to provoke and manipulate this issue? Do they not realise that their actions are very hurtful to Muslims?” Pembela demanded of the Christians involved in the import of the Malay bibles.

It noted that Putrajaya’s initial decision had showed a compromise that had exceeded those provisions.

“What more when we take into account the printing and distribution of our own Al-Quran is controlled by the Home Ministry (KDN),” it said, and echoed Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who had called the stamping and serialisation of the Malay bibles an “ordinary procedure”.

“That is why the hard stance and stubbornness of these Christians towards the government’s initial decision is very disappointing,” it said.

Pembela slammed the bible importers for making a wild and irresponsible accusation when the latter group claimed the Christian holy books had been desecrated.

The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons, had caused a public outcry after receiving letters from the Home Ministry’s Publication Control and Al-Quran Text division informing them of a conditional release of their shipments.

BSM had its 5,100 shipment seized from Port Klang in March 2009, while the 30,000 cargo meant for the Malay-speaking Christian Bumiputera market in Sarawak — Malaysia’s biggest Christian state — was seized two months ago.

According to Christian clerics in Sarawak, nearly half the state’s population is Christian.

The group, led by the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) and Malaysian Muslim Lawyers’ Society (PPMM), warned that the situation, if left unresolved, will likely lead to one of two possibilities.

“Firstly, the pressure and continuing provocation will cause national political leaders to feel weak and on the losing end and give in to whatever is asked for by the extremist groups without taking into account the position of Islam in the constitution, history and culture,” Pembela said.

It added that the Christians’ continued action to provoke Muslim sensitivities will also be seen as an “invitation” to reactionary Muslims who are “hard to control”.

Pembela demanded Christians apologise to Muslim community for their hurtful statements and actions over the issue.

It urged the Christian groups to stop taking a confrontational approach and instead use the available channels of dialogue, such as through the Committee for the Promotion of Religious Understanding and Harmony Among Adherents, to resolve the row peacefully.

It stressed that if the Christians continued their “hardline stance” and disturbed the previous religious formula that had worked for decades, Muslims “will not stay silent and will fight to defend its rights”.

The group stressed Muslims in Malaysia are a sovereign community and “Islam in Malaysia is not an orphan or stepchild that has no guardian and caretaker”.

Pembela also called on national political leaders not to pawn the sovereignty of Islam because of political pressure.

It said that bowing down to pressure may bring temporary relief but, in the long run, will destroy the axis of nation-building and cause all parties to lose out.

“We are also not comfortable with the approach to let non-Muslim leaders become the spokesmen for the government or opposition in this issue, because the issue involved Islam, it should rightfully be a Muslim leader who takes charge of it,” it said, referring to the latest statements from Datuk Seri Idris Jala for government and DAP publicity chief Tony Pua for the opposition team.

Pembela said it has decided to mobilise an awareness campaign among Muslim voters here to reject any leader who has over-compromised on the sovereignty of Islam in Malaysia.

Sarawak will go to the polls on April 16. National polls are widely expected to be called within the year, ahead of its 2013 due date.

Excerp Malaysian Insider..

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