KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — A coalition of Muslim NGOs accused Datuk Seri Idris Jala today of being partisan in his handling of the Alkitab controversy and for acting as a “minister of Christian affairs.”
The Muslim Organisations in Defence of Islam (Pembela) called for the minister leading the Performance Management & Delivery Unit to leave the matter to those in charge of Islamic affairs and unity.
“He speaks as if he is the Christian Minister, as if there was such a government department for it when there is no legal provision for such an office or institution,” said the coalition’s spokesman Yusri Mohamed.
He said that Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, the ministers handling Islamic affairs and unity respectively, should be allowed to take up the issue instead.
“There is already an interfaith council under Koh. Even though it has no co-ordinator, the minister is still there and he has clout,” Yusri said referring to the recent death of Datuk Ilani Ishak which has left the Special Committee to Promote Interreligious Understanding and Harmony without a head.
The coalition of 19 Muslim bodies has repeatedly attacked what it calls the “Idris Jala Formula” in handling the impasse over Malay-language bibles and said again today that it had weaknesses due to the lack of Muslim views.
Faced with an unyielding Christian community ahead of the April 16 Sarawak election, Idris, on behalf of the government, offered a 10-point solution to the Alkitab impasse which allowed the Bible to be freely distributed across the country in all languages.
Idris, who is from Sarawak, offered a new list of suggestions to put an end to the month-long stand-off in a bid to head-off a possible backlash against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition by Christians who make up half the population in the state.
However, the government insisted that the front cover of Malay-language bibles in the peninsula be marked with a cross and the words “Christian Publication.”
This was despite a pending appeal by the government over the High Court’s decision to allow non-Muslims to use the term Allah in their printed publications.
Pembela had threatened exactly a month ago to challenge the legality of the Idris Jala Formula.
Yusri, who is also president of the Islamic and Strategic Studies Institute, said that Pembela was waiting to see if this would be the government’s final decision before deciding whether to go to court over the matter.
Pembela held a press conference today and said that the issue, which was sparked by the seizure of over 35,000 Malay language bibles by the home ministry, would be a priority at a gathering of Muslim leaders this Saturday.
It said that it was organising the Perhimpunan Pimpinan Pertubuhan-Pertubuhan Islam Se-Malaysia” in Kuala Lumpur to seek common ground and an action plan in facing “threats to the position of Islam.”