Kuala Lumpur: A Christian group in Malaysia Wednesday criticised the government's confiscation of some 15,000 Malay-language Bibles which contain the word "Allah," or God in Arabic.
In a statement, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) called for the immediate release of the Bibles, saying that withholding the holy books would be denying Malay-speaking believers the right to practise their faith.
The government in March banned the use of the word "Allah" in non-Muslim publications, sparking fierce condemnation from religious groups who argue that the government had no legal right to ban the use of a word that predated the Koran and Islam.
Earlier this week, Christian groups said that the government seized 15,000 Bibles, most of which were to be sent to the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak, where the Malay language is most commonly used among people of all religions.
The CFM said in its statement Wednesday that the reason given by the authorities, which was that the Bibles were "prejudicial to public order", was ridiculous and offensive.
"Bibles in (Malay) have been used since before the independence of our country and have never been the cause of any public disorder," said Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the group.
"It is this action by the authorities themselves which is an affront to good public order," he said in the statement.
"We call on the relevant government officials who have neither the authority nor the right to act in this unconscionable manner to explain their action to the church leaders and to the public."
Malaysia's constitution declares it a secular state but with Islam as its official religion. About 60 percent of Malaysia's 25 million people are Muslims.
Minority religious groups have often complained that their constitutional right to practise different faiths have come under threat by what is seen to be an ultra-Islamisation move by the government in recent times.
First Published: Wednesday, November 04, 2009, 14:10