3. Religion of the Federation.
(1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
(2) In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution of that State, and, subject to that Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observances of ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to represent him.
(3) The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di- Pertuan Agong the position of Head of the religion of Islam in that State.
(4) Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.
(5) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.
11. Freedom of religion.
(1) Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
(2) No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.
(3) Every religious group has the right -(a) to manage its own religious affairs;
(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.(4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.(5) This Article does not authorise any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.
'Christian Publication' instead of 'For Christianity'Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing urged the use of the previous designation 'Christian Publication' in place of the government-proposed 'For Christianity' on imported copies of the Al-Kitab, currently held up at ports in Kuching and Klang by reason of bureaucratic trammels.
The Home Ministry's requirement that copies of Al-Kitab be stamped with serial numbers and with the 'For Christians Only' label has run into opposition from Church leaders and Christian groups.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) are meeting next week to discuss a new compromise proposed on Tuesday by Idris Jala, minister in the Prime Minister's Department, that impounded copies of Al-Kitab be stamped 'For Christianity' rather than with the inherently restrictive 'For Christians Only'.
Speaking to Malaysiakini today in his capacity as Catholic bishop for the Malacca-Johor diocese, Bishop Paul Tan, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, said:
"This may smack of frivolous jousting over semantics but the previous designation of 'Christian Publication' on copies of Al-Kitab agreed to between the government and the CFM in the 1980s is a more neutral and innocuous label than the government proposed 'For Christianity' label."
The vocal prelate had earlier denounced as "flatly unacceptable" the Home Ministry's requirements that impounded copies of Al-Kitab be stamped with serial numbers and 'For Christians Only' label before they can be released.
Bishop Paul Tan was the president of the CFM in the 1980s when an understanding between CFM and the government was reached on stamping imported copies of the Al-Kitab with the label 'Christian Publication'.
"The label 'For Christianity' is unwarrantedly restrictive whereas 'Christian Publication' is not. I would plump for the latter any day," opined Bishop Paul Tan.
"The Bible is the good news of salvation meant for all who are moved to hear it," he reiterated.
"In Malaysia, we adhere to the restriction on its dissemination to Muslims because that is the law of the land. We abide by that restriction because of the constitutionally mandated status of Islam as the country's official religion," he explained.
A hot potato since 1986
Since 1986 the Al-Kitab has become a hot potato because of a government ban that year on the use of theological terms such as 'Allah' by non-Muslims.
The term for God is freely employed in the Indonesian version of the Bible, Al-Kitab, which is the scriptural text used by Christians in Sabah and Sarawak for something like eight decades now.
Borneoan Christians were exempted from the government proscription against non-Muslim use of the term 'Allah'.
The exemption rendered the issue dormant for the better part of two decades before it flared anew early last year after the High Court ruled in favour of Christian use of the term 'Allah'.
The Home Ministry gained a stay of the court judgment but that only brought a tenuous relief from the simmering controversy.
With elections scheduled in Sarawak and a general election looming, the government is anxious to avoid stirring the ire of Christians over the issue. - Malaysiakini, 24/3/2011, 'Christian Publication' instead of 'For Christianity'
These requirements imposed by the home ministry are offensive as any person who respects the Holy Scripture of any religion will be insulted by this action, council president V Harcharn Singh said in a statement today.
"We stand in solidarity with our fellow Christian brothers and support their decision not to take delivery of the endorsed copies until the conditions imposed are withdrawn," he said.
Last week, Putrajaya decided to release the 30,000 copies of the Malay language Bible impounded for about two years in Kuching and in Port Klang.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (right) has defended the decision to place the ministry stamp on copies of the Al Kitab that were impounded, saying it was not "defacement" but standard practice.
Harcharn also said the Sikh community was heartened to learn that a large section of the Muslim community did not condone the home ministry action.
Last Friday, PAS Ulama Council chief Harun Taib called for the unconditional release of copies of the Al Kitab which have been impounded since January 2009.
She also applauded the church group's decision not to collect the copies that have been stamped.
Apart from Zuraida, several BN and Pakatan Rakyat politicians last week also took the common ground of calling on the government to allow the Malay language Bible to be circulated without conditions. - Malaysiakini, 22/3/2011, Sikhs back opposition to stamping of Al Kitab
Despite the government softening its stand on the Al-Kitab, the controversy continues to stir debate, this time by the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).
In a statement today signed by five MCCBCHST leaders, the council takes issue with the alleged promise by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to release 5,000 copies of the Al-Kitab impounded at Port Klang.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia, an umbrella body which represents 90 percent of churches in the country, claims that the promise was made during a Christmas party in December 2009.
“They were not (released). And when he was so informed last Christmas, he could only express surprise that the copies of the Al-Kitab are still being held by the authorities.
“This situation begs a first pair of questions: Does our current prime minister wield any authority? And if he does not, who does?” read the statement.
Al-Kitab cannot be 'restricted item'
In an attempt to quell the growing discontent over the seizure of the Al-Kitab, which includes 30,000 copies impounded at Kuching, the government announced on March 15 that it would be released, with two conditions.
One condition states that it would be stamped with the words “For Christians Only” and serialised. This move has received heavy condemnation
The council also takes offence over a phrase in the stamp that reads “by order of the minister of home affairs”.
“This means that the Al-Kitab is now considered a restricted item and the world of God has been made subject to the control of man,” read the statement.
The council stressed that Malaysians from various faiths, including Muslims, have come out in support of CFM's position and more are expected to voice their support soon.
Gov't pitting religions against each other?
They said that what is pertinent to note is that Islam promotes religious freedom and this was once promised by first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and in the Achtiname of Muhammad (also known as Muhammad's Covenant with the Saint Catherine Monastery).
“It would appear that the authorities would have Malaysians believe that the current developments about the release of the Al-Kitab (is a) Muslim and Christian conflict in our beloved country.
“The politicial leaders definitely do not have a finger on the pulse of the nation. They are definitely wrong in what they are doing.
“The preceding now begs a second set of questions: After Christians have been 'fixed', who next?”.
Following protests by Christian groups, the government relented and now only wants to stamp the words “For Christianity” on the Al-Kitab, either at the source of print or at the ports.
Christian leaders have said that they needed time to study the proposals. - Malaysiakini, 25/3/2011, Interfaith council: Christians now, who next? from Christian leaders who claim that their holy book had been desecrated.