Friday, October 30, 2009


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities have confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles in recent months because they referred to "God" as "Allah," a translation that has been banned in this Muslim-majority country, Christian church officials said Thursday.

The alleged seizure of the Bibles, imported from neighboring Indonesia, is certain to reignite complaints by religious minorities that their right to practice their faiths freely has come under threat as the government panders to the Muslim majority.

A growing sense of discrimination among the minorities is chipping away at Malaysia's reputation as a harmonious multiethnic nation that practices a moderate brand of Islam.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta to Kuching in Sarawak state on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word "Allah."

Indonesian language is similar to Malaysian language, both of which use "Allah" as translation for God in both Islamic and Christian traditions.

Another 5,100 Bibles, also imported from Indonesia, were seized in March, said an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia, who asked not to be named for fear of angering the government.

A Home Ministry official said he was not aware of the seizures. He said he couldn't be named without his superiors' clearance.

Malaysia has banned non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" in their texts, saying the word is Islamic and may upset Muslims. About 60 percent of the country's 28 million people are Malay Muslims while 25 percent are ethnic Chinese and 8 percent are Indians. Many of the Chinese and Indians are Christians.


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