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10 points, sultan’s decree and the raid

By Luke Rintod of FMT 
Recently, various news reports on the confiscating of Bibles translated into Bahasa Malaysia have repeatedly referred to the so-called 10-Point Resolutions adopted in April 2011 to ease fears among Christians about the Islamic agenda of government agencies and certain leaders in the Barisan Nasional coalition.

But what exactly are the 10 points?
When Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala, a Christian of Sarawak origin, announced the 10 points in April 2011, it was met with mixed reactions with Christians mollified and some Muslims feeling betrayed.

But the Federal Cabinet led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was trying to show an even hand and gain points ahead of general election that were due to be called by 2013.

This issue began with the tussle of ownership over the Arabic (or Aramaic/Syriac) word ‘Allah’. Many Malaysian Muslims believe the word belongs exclusively to them and non-Muslims cannot use it.

The Christians argue that no one can own the word Allah and everyone is free to use it. The Sikhs explained that their holy books also contained the word ‘Allah’.

But hardline Muslim groups like Perkasa and similar groups mushrooming in the peninsula continued to agitate and there is currently a standoff.

Along with the word Allah, these groups are also demanding that some 30 other Arabic words are also off limits to non-Muslims.

This has caused moderates to point out that such a stance would prevent non-Muslims from singing the Selangor state anthem which contains the phrase “Allah lanjutkan usia Tuanku” which translates as a plea to God to prolong the life of the state sultan.

To make it worse, Selangor Sultan Idris Sharaffudin Shah, decreed that all non-Muslims in his state could not utter the word “Allah” and scores of others including “firman”, “iman”, “kaabah”, “rasul”, “solat” and several others.

Though there has been talk about challenging the validity of the decree in a court of law, no one until now has dared to do so.

And so the focus switches to the cabinet’s 10-Point resolution.

10-Point Resolutions

In essence the 10 points outline or attempt to elaborate the inherent provisions of freedom of religion in the Federal Constitution.

They clarify how Christians in Malaysia are free to practice their religion with caveats on evangelism especially among the Muslim community.

The 10 points solution, signed and documented by Prime Minister Najib Razak states:

Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia.

2. These Bibles can also be printed locally in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

3. Bibles in indigenous languages of Sabah and Sarawak such as Iban, Kadazan-Dusun and Lun Bawang can also be printed locally and imported.

4. For Sabah and Sarawak, in recognition of the large Christian community in these states, there are no conditions attached to the importation and local printing of the Bibles in all languages, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia and indigenous languages. There is no requirement for any stamp or serial number.

5. Taking into account the interest of the larger Muslim community for Peninsula Malaysia, Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, imported or printed, must have the words “Christian Publication” and the ‘Cross’ sign printed on the front covers.

6. In the spirit of 1Malaysia and recognising that many people travel between Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia, there should be no prohibitions and restrictions for people who bring along their Bibles and Christian materials on such travel.

7. A directive on the Bible has been issued by the Chief Secretary (KSU) of the Home Ministry to ensure proper implementation of this cabinet decision. Failure to comply will subject the officers to disciplinary action under the General Orders. A comprehensive briefing by top officials, including the attorney-general (AG), will be given to all relevant civil servants to ensure good understanding and proper implementation of the directive.

8. For the impounded Bibles in Kuching, Gideon, the importer can collect all the 30,000 Bibles free of charge. We undertake to ensure the parties involved are reimbursed. The same offer remains available for the importer of the 5,100 Bibles in Port Klang, which have already been collected by the Bible Society Malaysia (BSM) last week.

9. Beyond the Bible issue, the government wishes to reiterate its commitment to work with the Christian groups and all the different religious groups in order to address inter religious issues and work towards the fulfillment of all religious aspirations in accordance with the constitution, taking into account the other relevant laws of the country. In order to bring urgency to this work, the prime minister will meet the representatives of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) soon to discuss the way forward.

10. The Christian ministers in the cabinet will meet on a regular basis with representatives of the various Christian groups in order to discuss their issues and work with the relevant ministries and PM in order to resolve them.

More questions than answers

The issue here and now is are these 10-points recognised by all government authorities at state and federal level?

Questions are being asked if they are even being upheld by members of Umno and those closely allied to the party.

The 10-points state that Sabahans and Sarawakians and even Peninsula Malaysians living in the two states can carry the unedited Al-Kitab even without the warning “For Christians Only” stamped on it.

But Selangor has now made it an offence.

The Selangor Jais (Jabatan Hal-Ehwal Islam Selangor) emphasised this point when they recently raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) office to confiscate over 300 Bibles and detain two of its officers.

The raid throws a spotlight on the increasingly untenable policy of having parallel civil laws and syariah laws in a multi-religion society like Malaysia.

The danger here is there are groups bent on unilaterally detecting religious policies in the country.

Rule by decree as promulgated by the Sultan of Selangor in this instance is a case in point.

Does this mean that the practice of parliamentary democracy is under threat in Malaysia?

The Selangor case is an eyeopener. Legal experts say that since Islam is under the jurisdiction and leadership of the Sultan, he has every right to make such decrees.

But then again, in Malaysia, a sultan does not govern in isolation. He is supposed to be guided by the supreme law of the land – the Federal and State Constitutions.

Even in this, the Federal Constitution takes precedence except in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

In the case of the Borneo states, any amendment or new provision in the Federal Constitution that affects the status of the two states should have the express consent of the legislatures of both but this has often been overlooked.

The Federal Constitution expressly provides for every citizen the freedom to practice their religion. All laws that transgress this are illegal.

If the respective state legislative assemblies refuse to act then a petition in a High Court to seek for such laws to be declared ultra vires the Federal Constitution can be made and therefore nullified.

Now who will come forward?



    If JAIS has that right, then it also would raid Christians homes and church !!! This is worse than Taliban and would truly show the colours of islam and Malaysian muslims, whom even Datuk Marina Mahathir, does not have respect.

  2. Palui punya jambatan kacau-kacau orang punya pejaba.. Urus pejabat kamu sendiri8 sudahlah Jais, duit rakyat semua agama lagi tu gajikan kamui !! Tak tau malu betul. Kami punya pastor dan paderi umat kami sendiri yg gaji hoi malulah sikit. Pengacau lanun merampok pejabat orang.

  3. We thought the federal constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all Malaysians? Does it not? Have UMNO amended the constitution recently?


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