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Johor Catholic priest detained, 30 hymn books with ‘Allah’ seized

Barely has the dust settled on the issue of the seized Bibles in Selangor, a Catholic priest in Muar, Johor, was detained for having 30 copies of a hymn book with the word Allah which were meant for his Orang Asli parishioners.
Father Cyril Mannayagam (pic), 44, said although the police later decided not to pursue the case against him, the hymn books, titled "Kepujian Kepada Tuhan Allah" (Praise be to God) were seized and had yet to be returned to him.
"I repeatedly told them that the song books were only for my own people in my church and that I wanted to use them for the service with the Orang Asli parishioners in Bekok, Tangkak," the parist priest of the Church of St Andrew in Muar told The Malaysian Insider.
"However, the police told me that they were waiting for orders from the higher authorities before they could decide on what to do with the books."
Cyril, who has been a priest for five years, said he had sent the hymn book for copying at about 1pm on December 5 at a shop in Tangkak and went back about four hours later to collect them.
"When I reached the shop, the man behind the counter told me that two policemen were waiting for me outside. So I went out and saw two men standing there.
"They asked me if those books were mine and I replied yes. They then asked me if I had already paid for the books," he said.
After Cyril paid for the books, the two men approached him and a parishioner who was with him at the time, and identified themselves as policemen, telling the two to follow them to the station.
"When I asked them why, they told me that the word 'Allah' was only for Muslims and others were not allowed to use it," he said.
After they were both taken to the Tangkak police station, which is situated opposite the photostat shop, Cyril contacted his lawyer.
"My lawyer told the officers at the station that I was a priest and warned them that this could blow up into a big issue if they continued with this and after much negotiations, they let us go.
"But they seized the 30 books despite me explaining to them that this was only for my Orang Asli parishioners," he added.
Cyril, who has worked with the Orang Asli for more than four years, said the books were meant for a Christmas service for some 100 Orang Asli parishioners, who were all Catholics.
"We meet for Sunday service at the Rumah Besar in the village in Bekok," he said.
The priest expressed dismay at the seizure of the hymn books, saying that the freedom to worship – as enshrined in the Federal Constitution – was not being adhered to.
"They don't even know what the books were for and what they contain.
"If they do not give us back the books, we will take them to court," Cyril said.
This incident comes a month after Selangor religious authorities released 321 copies of Malay and Iban-language Bibles to Sarawak Christians through the Association of Churches of Sarawak (ACS) at a ceremony witnessed by the Sultan of Selangor on November 14.
The Bibles were earlier seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) from The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) bookshop on January 2 and were released to Sarawak Christians rather than the peninsula-based BSM from where they were seized, as the Bibles were not to be used in Selangor.
Although the matter was considered settled then, it was later discovered that the Bibles had been stamped with a warning, which angered Christian leaders, who called it an act of desecration.
Similar to Selangor, the word Allah is also banned among non-Muslims in Johor according to Section 48(6) of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Johor) Enactment 2003. – December 14, 2014.

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