11/13/2014, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Malaysia to draw up rules to regulate the importation of Christian materials

Airports and customs will use new operating procedures to monitor imports. This comes after a Christian clergyman had his materials seized in late October. Customs officials say they took them away because they were bulky and heavy. Christian pastor says it was because they contained the word 'Allah'.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Malaysian government is drawing up a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the relevant authorities to prevent the unnecessary seizure of Christian religious material.

Sources in the Home Ministry said that SOPs were being prepared for use by various authorities, such as Customs and police.

"We hope the SOPs will be a reality soon," said Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, lawmaker and minister in the Prime Minister's Office, after handing over 130 religious books and 290 compact discs to the Protestant Church of Sabah (PCS) yesterday.

On 25 October, customs officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport seized them from Rev Maklin Masiau, a pastor with the Protestant Church in Sabah, because they contained the word "Allah" as the God of the Bible.

The Lutheran minister was coming back from a trip to Medan, Indonesia. He had travelled abroad to get religious material for Protestant communities in Sabah to use for the upcoming Christmas celebrations and events.

According to Customs officials, checks were made not because of the ban on the use of the word "Allah" in the material but because they had noticed one piece of bulky luggage and wanted to inspect it further. Afterwards, they seized the material.

The Christian clergyman disagrees. In his view, his rights were violated and he was prepared for a protracted process of getting them back.

On his Facebook page, he appealed to his friends and well-wishers to remain calm, pray for a solution and avoid making comments that might touch religious sensitivities.

Still, "Their main reason for the seizure was the books and the CDs contained the word Allah," he wrote.

In recent years, Malaysia's Christian minority has been the victim of targeted attacks, including church burning, the desecration of Christian graves and the seizure of 300 Bibles in January.

The use of the word Allah to describe the Christian God is behind such violence. Indeed, what started out as a long-standing legal battle between the government in Kuala Lumpur and the Catholic weekly The Herald - whose petition was rejected on 23 June - has now become a national controversy.

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