Malaysian Christians furious over hundreds of desecrated Bibles
Muslim authorities in Selangor returned 321 copies seized in January after stamping them with a warning against distribution in the state because it contained the word 'Allah' for the Christian God, which is something offensive to Muslims. Christian leaders are preparing a formal complaint.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Malaysia's Christian leaders are furious that hundreds of Bibles seized earlier this year and returned last month were desecrated by Muslim authorities in the State of Selangor.

The 321 copies were returned to Sarawak Christians after being stamped with a warning to ensure that the copies of the Holy Book containing the word Allah did not return to the state, the Sultan of Selangor Sharafuddin Idris Shah said.

According to the Association of Churches of Sarawak (ACS), the discovery was made only after the books were returned on 14 November at an official ceremony. Conversely, for the state's sultan, Christian leaders were aware of the addition.

Local Christian sources said that the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), which owns the copies seized on 1 January by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS), is preparing a formal complaint against what they call an added provocation.

Bibles contain a warning issued by Muslim religious authorities that says, "Strictly for non-Muslims usage only and shall not be published or used in any part of the state of Selangor".

Such a Bible can therefore be used only in Sarawak (as in Sabah), in Malaysian Borneo, home to substantial Christian community.

Meanwhile, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah released an official statement, calling on non-Muslims to respect and protect the religious sensibilities of Muslims in Malaysia, in particular, in Selangor. "I hope that there are no more printing and distribution of copies of the Bible in Selangor with the word Allah," the statement said.

A controversial Appeal Court ruling against the Malaysian Catholic weekly Herald using the word Allah is main reason for this year's attacks - Bible seizure, church attacks and grave desecrations - against minority Christians.

Following the court decision, Interior Ministry officials seized 2,000 copies of the magazine published by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur at Kota Kinabalu airport, in Sabah State.

The seizure was "justified" by the need to check whether the publication complied with a court decision against the "illegal use of the word Allah".

In Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation (60 per cent) of more than 28 million, Christians are the third largest religious group after Buddhists with more than 2.6 million members.

A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 year ago shows that 'Allah' was used in the Bible from the start to refer to God in the local language.