Thursday, March 31, 2011

Malaysia: Christians inviting trouble over Alkitab row, say Muslim NGOs

Christians inviting trouble over Alkitab row, say Muslim NGOs

UPDATED @ 06:55:42 PM 28-03-2011
March 28, 2011

Pembela warned that Muslims would not keep silent in the row. — file pic
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.

Muslim outrage over the “Allah” ruling had led to arson attacks.
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.

Jala should not be the government frontman on this issue, the NGO 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.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christians say fed up with Najib administration


Christians say fed up with Najib administration

March 10, 2011

The Malay Bibles contain the word ‘Allah’. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Christians in Malaysia say they are angry and fed up with the Najib government for what they see as a systematic move to deny their religious rights enshrined in the country’s highest law.

Spurred by the Home Ministry’s latest seizure of 30,000 Malay Bibles that cost US$26,000 (RM78,000) from Kuching port, the churches rallied together and issued a stinging rebuke today against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

They demanded he “prove their (the government) sincerity and integrity in dealing with the Malaysian Christian community on this and all other issues which we have been raising with them since the formation of the Christian Federation of Malaysia in 1985”.

“The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is greatly disillusioned, fed-up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles written in our national language, Bahasa Malaysia.

“It is an affront to them that they are being deprived of their sacred scriptures. Many are wondering why their scriptures are considered a threat to national security. All these actions in relation to the detention of the Bibles continue to hurt the Malaysian Christian community,” it said in a statement today signed by its chairman, Bishop Ng Moon Hing.

They demanded the government immediately release all Bibles detained.

The CFM is the umbrella body that represents over 90 per cent of churches in the country.

Malaysian Christians make up close to 10 per cent of the 28 million population; with the biggest numbers based in Sarawak and Sabah, where the main language used by the Bumiputeras in churches is Bahasa Malaysia.

The CFM noted that the federal government has been thwarting all attempts to import Malay Bibles from outside Malaysia since March 2009, “despite repeated appeals which resulted in the prime minister making a decision to release the Alkitab held in Port Klang in December 2009 which was reported to CFM leaders by several Cabinet ministers and their aides.

“This is notwithstanding that the government in its attempt to justify its position against the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Alkitab, the government had given the assurance that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia will be freely available, at least in Sabah and Sarawak,” it said.

The Catholic Church had won a landmark judgment on December 31, 2009 that gives it the right to publish the word, but has effectively been barred from doing so pending the government’s appeal.

The group pointed to two separate shipments totalling 15,000 copies that had been seized by Home Ministry officials and left to languish for over a year at Kuching port and Port Klang in Selangor.

CFM said officials at Port Klang have steadfastly refused to release the 5,000 copies imported by the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM).

“In absolute disregard of this decision, the 5,000 copies of the Alkitab remain detained,” CFM said.

It added that there were other shipments of Bibles and other Christian material before March 2009 that were confiscated by ministry officials that have yet to be returned to their owners.

One such case involves Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, whose personal collection of Christian CDs — bought on a trip to Indonesia — were seized by Malaysian Customs officials at the airport here in May 2008 allegedly for being a threat to national security.

Jill filed to sue the Home Ministry at the High Court here but her case has also been languishing in the courts.

Her lawyer, Annou Xavier, told reporters in Putrajaya that the case was fixed to be mentioned today, but no hearing date was given.

CFM questioned if the government was powerless to act against these “little Napoleons” who substitute their own interests and agenda in place of the prime minister’s directives”.

“We would ask how the government’s transformation programme can be successfully implemented if civil servants can blatantly refuse to obey the prime minister’s order?”

Ng told The Malaysian Insider today that he had personally raised the hold-up of the Bibles with the prime minister during a Christmas open house last year.

“He said he was surprised and told me ‘I need to go back and check but I’ll look into it’,” Ng said, relating his conversation with Najib.

He added that the PM was likely told that the Kuching shipment has been released without knowing anything about the Port Klang shipment.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the first consignment of 10,000 copies seized at Kuching port was released on Christmas last year after the prime minister stepped in.

Ng said the churches would continue to apply pressure on the Najib administration.

“We will not stop appealing. If we give up, it means the end of our religion,” the head of Malaysia’s Anglican church said.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Scavengers who put Sarawak to Shame

Waiting hopefully at the re-cycling dump for something they may be able to use or sell to buy food

While Taib Mahmud used his BN party convention (staged at the new Borneo Convention Centre, which he corruptly hired his own family to build and manage) to lash out at the ”liars and cowards”, who dare criticise his policies of ’progress and development’, Sarawak Report took receipt of a tape, some interviews and photographs.

The material shows the scavengers who scrounge their living out of the re-cycling dump in the car park of his own Borneo Development Corporation! The scenes take place every day just 150 meters from the office of his political secretary Karim Hamza, who also enjoys the job as Chairman of the BDC.

Sarawak is Malaysia’s richest state and has a small population. Billions have been raided from the jungles and from oil and all this wealth is plainly reflected in the vast homes and wealth of the Taib family and theirbusiness associates. However, it is clear that sharing some of this wealth with the people he took it from is not part of that policy of ‘progress and development’, for which Taib so loudly refuses to apologise.


We have learnt that many of these scavengers, who wait to crowd around the cars drivers who come to dump their old and broken things, have come from the Stampin Resettlement Scheme – they had been promised a better future by BN, but as so often, the promises turned out not to be straightforward.

Waiting for the car to stop and the rubbish to be chucked out!

Each tiny plot costs RM 10,000 and if the settler cannot pay it they cannot claim title to the land, even if they have shouldered the cost of building a house. This swamp land also needs earth filling to be suitable to build on and this costs another RM 8,000 for the impoverished natives, making ‘resettlement’ even harder to achieve. Most of these low-paid or un-paid settlers have no hope of meeting such costs.

As the Chief Minister sets out to destroy even more of the country with his new mega-industrial ‘development’ programme, SCORE, the half million further natives who are threatened with displacement as a result should consider these scenes, which show their fellow people who suffered first.

Very important person?

Of course, such petty problems, which affect so many thousands of natives who have been displaced from their lands by ‘development’, appear to be beneath the attention of Taib Mahmud, who arrived at the convention in his customary Rolls Royce.

Even less so his politician son Rahman, his once rumoured successor, who was too busy enjoying his skiing and jet-set lifestyle (according to his facebook) to bother to turn up at all. However, Sarawak Report thinks it is appropriate to report some of the stories of anguish behind the stampede as each car arrives at the dump, especially during the week of International Womens’ Day.

Everyone matters – women struggling to survive

We however do think it is worth investigating the human stories behind the mainly women who are waiting at the dumps all over Kuching.

Just a squatter, so who cares?

Nuratiqah binti Abdullah told us she is 34 years old and has three children aged 8, 9 and 15. Her family lives in resettlement area but on land without a Temporary Occupation License. Therefore she is unable to access basic utilities such as water and electricity. At night, her house is lighted up with only one bulb running from a car battery.

The home was partially damaged when fire broke out 3 weeks ago. The children’s school uniforms were lost in the fire. Her husband is jobless and occasionally joins her at the recycling centre. Invalid father-in-law lives together with them. He receives RM150 in welfare monthly.

A generous RM 200 a month to take care of her children and elderly Dad?

Nanong binti Sidek is aged 37. She lives within the resettlement scheme. Her dependents are two young children; son 12 years, daughter 9 years, for which she receives RM200 in child welfare support monthly. Her husband deserted the family 4 years ago.

She lives with an aged father, who suffers from diabetes and heart ailments. She formerly worked as waitress in a coffeeshop, but was unable to withstand constant scolding by employer. She has been scavenging since 2008.

Kiat anak Resat is 69 years old. She too resides in Kampung Stutong Baru, which forms part of the Stampin Resettlement Scheme. The resettlement scheme itself is made up of 1154 lots of land. She formerly worked at a construction site for 6 years before she took to scavenging for the last 4 years.

Hardship in old age.

Her husband is wheelchair bound due to a stroke, for which they used to receive welfare of RM60 per month for 2 years until it stopped. She has 5 grown up children; her 3 sons have no fixed income (one is an alcoholic), her 2 daughters are already married with families and contribute little support.

Down the road from the dump can be found some of Kuching’s wealthiest developments. Taib’s other son Abu Bekir’s apartment at Village Grove is about 300 meters away and he must pass them every day.

Abu Bekir’s fabulous wealth is un-earnt, because it came in state hand-outs in the form of contracts and concessions given by his Dad.

However, the old man clearly does not believe in extending such generosity to the mothers and old women who are suffering in his resettlement schemes. They are expected to pay impossible sums to take advantage of the housing schemes advertised by BN as opportunities for the poor

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