Selangor’s religious authorities have no legal basis to apply for a court order seeking to dispose the over 300 bibles it still has in its possession, the Malaysian Bar said today.
Bar Council president Christopher Leong told the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) that in this particular matter, Sections 407 or 407A of the Criminal Procedure Code could not be used to obtain such an order.
Explaining, Leong pointed out that Section 407 only applies to cases involving a pending trial while Section 407A is applicable when a criminal charge has been framed, as the section requires a certification by a magistrate or judge that has jurisdiction over the matter.
“There is therefore no basis or foundation for any application under section 407 or section 407A,” he said in a statement here.
Leong urged the religious authorities to adhere to the Attorney-General’s decision on the matter and instead of seeking out ways to dispose of the bibles, the lawyer said Mais and Jais should immediately release the holy books to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM).
“The Malaysian Bar calls upon Mais and Jais to adhere to the decision of the Attorney General, conduct themselves within the purpose and ambit of the said Selangor Enactment, abide by the Federal Constitution,” he said.
He was referring to the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988, which was used by Jais to confiscate the over 300 bibles from BSM for containing the word “Allah” during its raid on January 2.
Last week, the AG said no charges will be made against the BSM, pointing out that the bibles were not “controlled items” and that it was not a national security issue.
The AG added, however, that the state Islamic authorities would take the “next step” in accordance with the law.
In response, Mais said it would not return the holy books, claiming that the AG had erred by deciding not to pursue charges in the case.
It also insisted that there are grounds to “prosecute” BSM under the Selangor enactment.
Noting that Jais had used the law to conduct its raid, Leong said that in the first place, it was alarming that a religious body would purport to have jurisdiction or purview over other religions and their properties.
He said this was not what was envisaged under the Federal Constitution.
Leong insisted that based on provisions in the country’s highest law, the purpose of the Selangor enactment is to prohibit the propagation of other religions to Muslims or the proselytisation of Muslims.
Therefore, without establishing there was actual propagation to Muslims, using the Selangor enactment’s ban on the word “Allah” can be considered as ultra vires, the lawyer added.
“In the circumstances, the insistence by Mais that there are grounds to prosecute BSM, and that the Attorney General has erred, is wholly misconceived and without legal basis.
“Mais and Jais have no grounds to refuse to release and return the more than 300 copies of the Alkitab and Bup Kudus to BSM,” Leong said, referring to the bibles.