Friday, February 08, 2008

Hands Off The Holy Books!

If Muslims can get so worked up by the fact that some right-wing Dutch politician hungering for publicity can stir up a debate by demeaning the Quran, why is it that so many Muslims remain indifferent to how their fellow Muslims treat the holy texts of other faiths and belief-systems? A case in point is the recent seizure of thirty-two Bibles from a Malaysian Christian who was on her journey back to Malaysia from the Philippines. Upon arrival in Malaysia, her bags were checked by the customs authorities and all of the Bibles were confiscated, on the grounds that they had to be vetted by the Ministry of Internal Security. But since when were Bibles deemed a security threat in Malaysia, and to whom might they pose a danger? More worrying still is the fact that the customs officers – who we were told were Muslim – had seized the Bibles on their own initiative, despite there not being any formal ban on Bibles in the country. (After all, there are literally millions of Christians of all denominations in Malaysia and they have lived there for decades if not centuries, so why the fear of Bibles now?) In the event the Bibles were eventually returned to the Malaysian Christian in question, but worrying doubts remain. What will be the fate of other books of other religions and belief-systems? As a scholar who teaches comparative religion, I have in my collection not only numerous editions of the Bible but also Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Tantric, Animist and Jewish texts. Are these to be screen and vetted too? And on what grounds; that as a person born to the Muslim faith (a contingency of history that I did not decide or determine, I might add) I am not allowed to read such texts for fear that I may be ‘contaminated’ by alien ideas of alien creeds?
Farish Noor on The Other Malaysia website is commenting on this incident.

Lucia Lai blames the UMNO gomen, though it seems to me that in most cases it is individual officers (whether of the Internal Security Ministry, or as in this case customs officers) who are acting on their own woefully misguided initiative.

Of course such incidents provoke an outcry and are put right later, but not without bringing the country a barrage of bad publicity (look at how this story has bounced round the globe) and causing deeply hurt feelings at home.

Such incidents really worry me because there is such a need for religious tolerance in this multi-faith, multi-ethnic country. We've seen too many countries take the other path.


Poseidon said...

and we call malaysia a multi-faith country. humiliating.

Anonymous said...

I think someone got power hungry is all. I can show you a whole section in Borders labeled "Christian Books" or some similar title.

The interesting thing here is that people like bad news. This sort of thing should probably be discouraged, but you can see how it is, how many people like to sell schadenfreude.

Catalina said...

It's precisely because someone got power hungry that *that* person ought to be given a good slapping. An iron-fisted government can be consistent, but a sea of ignorant people who suddenly call self-entitlement upon themselves and get power hungry and who are never chastised for this attitude is far more dangerous than any government conceivable.

Catalina said...

edit: replace 'suddenly' in my comment to 'arbitrarily'. That was my intended message, but the word escaped me for a moment.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are thinking:
If my religion is the one true religion, there is no need to stand up for those who believe in the wrong religion.

Me, I think monotheism is simply not conducive not respecting other religions.


Anonymous said...

not conducive *to* respecting other religions.

savante said...

The authorities in question should be hung, drawn and quartered. Now what has been done to the officers involved?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I'm sending people to read this post, in case you are interested in what I wrote:

Would you consider reading People of the Book with the Book Buddies in March?

bibliobibuli said...

savante - i guess they just get away with it in the end

thanks Bonnie. i have 'children of the book" and do intent to read it ... though as usual am a bit swamped with have-tos and a few desperately want-tos like the new carey novel. i won't promise but will try and thanks as always for your patience with me

a.a.g said...

this whole thing's just awful Sharon, utterly disgusting...

animah said...

The sarcastic side of me thinks, well at least now they're treating Christians the way they treat Muslims in this country - see Sharon's earlier post on the banned 11 books.

Perhaps Christians would consider whether they want the following equal rights that Malaysian Muslims seem to have:
1. Reduced guardianship rights for women over their children.
2. Not being able to enter beauty contests, not even Cornetto Love Perhaps, and not, I realised to my horror today, not be able to qualify for The Sunday Star In Education Blind Date for Valentines Day (ok this is an assumption, but there are no Malays among the 10 participants).
3. Be constantly looking over their shoulder for the Khlalwat squad when with their partner.
4. Not having a choice as to whom should inherit their EPF, Insurance contributions and other assets.

Sometimes I get a bit fed up with all this Muslim bashing. Try being a Muslim in this country.

I don't see non Muslims standing up for Muslim rights - well not many anyway.

If the Christians can't really stand up for Freedom of Religion (eg. Lina Joy's case) publicly, then don't complain when your bibles get seized. Your silence has caused this.

warrior2 said...

Bibles and other books of Faith are being sold freely in malaysia in many bookstores.There is no law or policy which prohibits the sales of such "books".

What happened was an isolated case , the act of 1 person (I think) who didnt know his/her job well enough. I am not going to sound the battle cry because of the above facts.

I will start to do so if this is consistently been done or happens!