Taib last night attending the SMK St Joseph’s fund-raiser. — Picture by Choo Choy May
MUKAH, April 9 — Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud described the stamping of Bahasa Malaysia bibles as a “stupid idea” that should not be applied to Sarawak. Calling the strictures that have been placed by the home ministry on the Alkitab as nonsense,
Abdul Taib said that he had made his feelings known to prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the latter’s visit to Sarawak.
“I told him it should be stopped and Najib said, ‘yes’ I agree,” taib told reporters after opening the new building St Peter and St Paul Catholic Church, here.
Taib said the stamping of serial numbers on the Alkitab as initially proposed by the Home Ministry was a misinterpretation of the law by its lower ranking officers.
“The PM also agreed it was,” Taib said, adding that the dispute has “been resolved”.
Christian groups have been locked in a dispute with the government over the usage of Bahasa Malaysia Bibles or the Al Kitab and over 30,000 new copies have been impounded in Kuching and Port Klang by the ministry.
The ministry then allowed the Bibles to be released on condition of being stamped with serial numbers and the phrase “for Christians Only”. Christian groups refused to abide by these conditions and have not collected the copies.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Christian groups and the government have yet to reach a final resolution to the dispute.
A current proposal from the government calls for serial numbers to be dropped but for the label “For Christians to remain”.
The row has gnawed at Christian groups and could sway sentiments ahead of the April 16 Sarawak polls as half of Sarawakians are Christians.
In an emotional speech during the opening of the Church’s new building, Taib said he was very troubled by the recent spate of tensions being flared up between Muslims and Non-Muslims as it has upset the traditionally harmonious bonds between the different faiths in Sarawak.
“Let there not be any suspicions between Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus. The days of persecution are over.
“There is no compulsion in religion. I said exactly the same thing to my fellow Muslims,” Taib said.
Sarawak is a more religiously tolerant society compared to the Peninsula. Inter-faith families among Muslims and Non-Muslims are common here where both parents will hold on to different faiths even after marriage.
Muslim Sarawakians for instance have never made a fuss over Christians using the term “Allah”. Though the state government is headed by a Muslim, grants are routinely given to churches and temples.