DBP Bible translation against Christians’ rights, says CFM

Julian-Leow-cfm-bible-1PETALING JAYA: The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) today slammed the proposal by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) for Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to translate the Bible into Bahasa Malaysia.

Saying CFM was affronted by the “patronising suggestion”, its chairman Julian Leow added that the suggestion was another attempt to infringe on the rights of Christians under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution to manage their 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,” he said in a statement.

Leow said the suggestion was also a “most heinous form of offence against what all Christians believe to be divinely inspired Scriptures”.

He was responding to Mais lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who said in court last Wednesday that DBP could correct the Christians’ alleged error in using the word “Allah” for God in their Bahasa Malaysia Bibles.

Haniff claimed that the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak had wrongly used “Allah” for God in Bahasa Malaysia, arguing that they should instead use “Tuhan”, which would not deprive them of their rights.

Haniff made the suggestion while addressing the court during the hearing of a suit by a Malay-speaking Bumiputera Christian from Sarawak, Jill Ireland, against the home minister and the government to uphold her constitutional rights which she said were infringed by a ban on the use of “Allah” in Christian publications.

Another Christian group, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), responded on Saturday, saying Article 11(1) of the constitution protects the “fundamental right to profess, practice and to propagate one’s religion which includes the right to pray in the name of their God”.

“This includes BM-speaking Christians who use the word ‘Allah’. To them, that name for God carries spiritual meaning that has been passed down from one generation to another.

“This is born of centuries of usage of the word which has never harmed or caused any problem for people of other faiths,” NECF chairman Eu Hong Seng said in a statement.

Leow said Bahasa Malaysia was used by the majority of Christians in the country, and that many words including “Allah” had been used for a long time by local Christians, Christians in the region as well as those in the Middle East.

He added that Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had on Oct 16 reminded people in the state to respect the principles in the Federal Constitution for the country’s harmony and peace.

“As reported by the secretary of the Royal Court of Selangor: ‘The Malay rulers are of the opinion that the image of Islam as the federal religion is a religion that should encourage its followers to be tolerant, moderate, inclusive and not polluted by extreme actions’,” he said.

“Malaysians were also reminded on Oct 10 by the Conference of Rulers that all must adhere to the core principles embedded in the Federal Constitution, that this was drafted based on the understanding that ours is a country whose citizens are of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds and that all must be respected.

“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.”