KUCHING, April 16 — Putrajaya is now in the process of gathering feedback and views from church leaders and importers of religious materials in its bid to formulate special guidelines for Christian goods bound for east Malaysia, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said.
After a dialogue session with Sarawak church leaders today, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department announced that he and Home Ministry officials will meet with stakeholders in Sabah on the matter next Friday.
“The importers from the two states may be ignorant of the rules and regulations when bringing in religious materials from outside Malaysia.
“That is what was happening when a consignment of religious materials, bound for Sabah, was stopped at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in October last year,” he told reporters here after opening the dialogue session with local church leaders, importers and Home Ministry officials.
Kurup said the government hopes to come up with “improved and simplified” procedures for the shipment of religious materials to east Malaysian states.
These new SOPs, he added, will be unique to east Malaysia.
“I want SOPs especially meant for Sarawak and Sabah because we are given the freedom to import all religious materials including the Malay-language Bibles with the word ‘Allah’,” he said.
He said importers must have import permits when bringing in religious materials in large quantities, just like any other items that are brought into the country.
“If we do not have documents to indicate that these religious materials are for use in Sabah, then the Customs officers would definitely detain the materials,” he said.
As an example, Kurup referred to the case in Sabah last year that saw Customs officials seize 574 books, 419 CDs and five DVDs at klia2, which local church pastor Maklin Masiau had brought in from Medan, Indonesia.
The materials, containing the word “Allah”, were later released to Maklin.
During the release of the materials in November, Kurup announced Putrajaya’s plan to formulate special SOPs for the importation of religious materials into east Malaysia.
In his speech at the opening of the dialogue here earlier today, Kurup also assured Sarawak church leaders that there is no restriction on the use of the word “Allah” by the Christians in their state.
He said the government is committed to the 10-point solution on the use of the word “Allah” among the Christians in Sarawak and Sabah and that they are allowed to import and distribute religious materials in Malay and indigenous languages.