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Malaysia rejects call to release 10,000 Bibles

Associated Press / November 5, 2009

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The Malaysian government has refused to release 10,000 Bibles confiscated for using the word “Allah’’ to refer to God, a banned translation in Christian texts in this Muslim-majority country, an official said yesterday.

An official from the Home Ministry’s publications unit said the government rejected pleas by church officials to allow the Bibles, imported from Indonesia, into the country. Christians say the Muslim Malay-dominated government is violating their right to practice their religion freely.

Such religious disputes are undermining Malaysia’s reputation as a harmonious multiethnic, moderate Muslim nation. About 30 percent of the country’s 28 million people practice Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or other faiths.

A Home Ministry official said the government told the importer last month to return the Indonesian-language Bibles, which are still with customs.

“Actually the publications, the Bibles are already banned,’’ said the official, refusing to elaborate.

The Bibles contain the word “Allah,’’ which is banned by the government for use by non-Muslims in an apparent bid to appease Muslims.

Church officials say the word “Allah’’ has been used for centuries to refer generally to God in both Indonesian and Malaysian languages, which are similar.

The Roman Catholic Church is challenging the ban in court.