KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 — Hundreds of Christian compact discs (CDs) and books containing the word “Allah” were confiscated at the Kuala Lumpur International 2 airport in Sepang last Saturday.
The items were the personal belongings of a Christian man who had brought them in from Medan, Indonesia, and was on his way back to Sabah where he resides.
Sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Malay Mail Online that the Protestant church in Sabah that he attends is attempting to negotiate with the Home Ministry for the return of the books and the CDs.
The seizure of the Christian materials that describe God as “Allah”, an Arabic word which Malaysian Muslims deem exclusive to Islam, is the latest to demonstrate the unresolved quandary stemming from regulatory prohibitions against non-Muslim use of the word in the peninsula but not in Sabah and Sarawak.
The inconsistent rules previously caused over 2,000 copies of the Catholic weekly, the Herald, to be confiscated at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport a year ago on October 25.
The Home Ministry released the shipment two days later.
Much of the issue stems from the Catholic Church’s 2008 challenge against the Home Ministry for prohibiting its use of “Allah” in the Herald. The case came to an end when the Federal Court declined in June to hear the Catholic Church’s appeal against an appellate court decision upholding the ban.
The Federal Court’s decision rendered last year’s Court of Appeal ruling the authority in the issue, which triggered concern as the judges had then given their opinion that “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith.
Although Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria later clarified that the opinion was non-binding on future cases, the effects of the appellate court ruling continue to be seen in existing cases and incidents.
Earlier this month, the Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church won its appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s dismissal of its suit against the government over the seizure of children’s books containing the word “Allah”.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the case be sent back to the High Court.
In another case, eight CDs containing the word “Allah” were confiscated from a Sarawakian Christian called Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal airport in Sepang in 2008.
The Bumiputera Christian had brought in the CDs from Indonesia for personal use.
Although the High Court here ruled last July that the Home Ministry was wrong to detain the CDs and ordered their return, the government has insisted on holding on to the items pending an appeal against the decision.
The “Allah” issue also continues to disturb the Christian Bumiputera communities in Sabah and Sarawak, who typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their holy scriptures and religious practices.