Over 300 Bibles have been confiscated by Islamic officials of the Islamic Religious Department in Selangor (JAIS) because they refer to God as "Allah;" because of this, Christians are becoming increasingly concerned about their rights in the predominately Islamic country whose constitution guarantees the freedom of religion.
The Wall Street Journal reports that JAIS took 320 Bibles from the Malaysian Bible Society (MBS) and arrested the organization's president and office manager. The two men were subsequently released on bail, and MBS President Lee Min Choon is advising Christians in the country to remain calm at this time.
Last year, Catholics in Malaysia were brought to court over using the word "Allah" to refer to God in a newspaper publication. "The usage of the word ‘Allah' is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity," said Chief Judge Mohamed Apadi Ali in his October ruling to restrict non-Muslims' usage of the word - "The intended usage will cause unnecessary confusion within the Islamic community."
Christians make up roughly 9% of the Malaysian population, while an estimated 60% are Muslim. Although Islamic practice in Malaysia is said to be more moderate than other Middle-Eastern countries, some believe that the Islam-dominated country is becoming more conservative and is increasingly restricting the religious freedom of minorities.
"Islamic authorities do not have the authority in law to enter the premises of non-Muslim religious establishments for inspection, search, or raid," said Malaysia's Council of Churches in regard to the recent confiscation. Lee and leaders of JAIS plan to meet on January 10 to discuss the incident further.