Citing ‘sacred patrimony’, churches reject unauthorised DBP translation of Bibles
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) expressed today its outrage that the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) can provide an “official translation” of its holy book in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) which forms part of the “sacred patrimony” for its adherents.
The umbrella organisation representing 90 per cent of churches nationwide condemned the proposal by a legal representative of the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) as another attempt to infringe upon the constitutional right of Christians to manage their own religious affairs.
“The Holy Bible and the Al-Kitab in Bahasa Malaysia form part of the sacred patrimony of Christians and any attempt by any person not authorised by the Christian churches to provide an authoritative version will be firmly rejected.
“This is not just an outrage to Christians and their sensibilities. It will be a most heinous form of offence against what all Christians believe to be divinely inspired Scriptures, the Word of God,” CFM said in a statement signed by its chairman and Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Julian Leow Beng Kim.
The CFM reiterated that BM is the language of the majority of Christian Malaysians, emphasising that the Arabic word for God “Allah” has been used in the Christian context locally and regionally “since time immemorial”.
The group pointed out that the Conference of Rulers had last month issued a reminder to all Malaysians to respect and abide by the principles in the Federal Constitution with regards to religious matters.
It added that the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had issued a similar call just days later for respect of the constitution — country’s supreme law — for national peace and harmony.
“All who hope for continued unity and stability in our beloved country must surely take such wise and timely advice to heart for the betterment of all who live in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious community,” CFM concluded.
The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship — one of the components in the CFM — had just two days ago criticised the argument in court by a lawyer for Mais during a lawsuit by Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill against the Home Ministry Putrajaya over the local ban of “Allah” in Christian publications.
Mais lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla had told the High Court that DBP could prepare a Malay version of the Bible omitting the word “Allah”, which is currently used in existing editions of the Al-Kitab.
Malaysia is possibly the only country in the world in which “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, is exclusive to Islam, after the courts here ruled in favour of the federal government’s decision to ban the Catholic Church from using it in its newsletter, Herald.
Despite the government’s assertion, the “Allah” prohibition has expanded beyond the Herald to affect the daily prayer and worship of Christian Malaysians, the majority who are the Malay-speaking natives of Sarawak and Sabah.