» 03/16/2011 13:21 MALAYSIA Malaysian government releases 35 thousand Bibles to halt controversy over term "Allah" Kuala Lumpur cedes to pressure and protests, and allows the Bibles imported from Indonesia to enter the country. The books will overwrite the "only for Christians." Fears of conversions from Islam.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The government has released 35 thousand Bibles in Malay language still held at port where they were unloaded. It was the government itself to announce the decision, after the controversy related to the use of the word "Allah" to mean "God." The government had banned the use of the term Allah by Christians, in particular the “Catholic Herald" newspaper. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Christians, but the government appealed, and in the meantime blocked two loads of Bibles from Indonesia. (03/12/2011 Christians protest: government blocks 30 thousand Bibles in Malay).
Their release is related to a 1982 Act that allows "a limited and controlled importation and circulation of Bibles in the Malay language, labelled: 'Christians only'," said Idris Jala, an official of the Department of the Prime Minister. "This is a reasonable compromise to handle the polarization of views between Christians and Muslims in the country," the official added. The government had said earlier that the use of the word "Allah" for God by the Christian minority could cause confusion and encourage conversion from Islam, illegal in the predominantly Muslim country.
60% of Malaysians are Sunni Muslims (the official religion of the country), and approximately 19% practice Buddhism, 9% are Christians and 6% Hindus. The remainder is divided between Chinese religions and philosophies, and traditional beliefs.
On 14 March, the bishop of the Diocese of Malacca-Johor, Paul Tan, had officially protested, taking a rare stance against the blockade of the Bibles ("Al Kitab" in Malay) calling the decision "a blatant example of hypocrisy" , and "a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and defended by Pope Benedict XVI as the right to protect the dignity of the human person and his freedom of conscience."