Rising Christian anger in Malaysia over Bible seizures
Rising Christian anger in mainly Muslim Malaysia over the government’s handling of a case involving seized Bibles could complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bid to win back the support of minorities ahead of an early general election. The row over 35,100 imported Malay language Bibles and Christian texts impounded by Customs authorities comes amid a legal battle on the right of non-Muslims to use the Arabic word “Allah” and could raise ethno-religious tensions in the country. The Bibles were seized in 2009 but the case was only made public in January.
“There has been a systematic and progressive pushing back of the public space to practise, to profess and to express our faith,” Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), said in a statement on Wednesday.
Christians make up 9.1 percent of the country’s 28 million population. Chinese and Indian non-Muslim ethnic minorities have abandoned the government, leading to record losses for Najib’s ruling coalition in the last national polls in 2008 and growing complaints of marginalisation.
The row signals continuing minority discontent that could stymie Najib’s bid to reverse the 2008 poll losses and to accelerate the implementation of tax and subsidy reforms, which have slowed due to the government’s wariness about upsetting voters.
“This issue will make it easier for the opposition to win additional seats,” said James Chin, a political analyst at the Monash University campus in Kuala Lumpur.
The “Allah” affair has been running since December 2009, when a Catholic publication was given the right to use the word, which led to attacks on houses of worship.