Detained Christians Released in Malaysia

Two American Protestants arrested in Malaysia for allegedly distributing Christian literature outside a mosque were discharged after 10 days, a U.S. Embassy spokesman confirmed from Kuala Lumpur.

Ricky Rupert and Zachary Harris were arrested late last month after the imam of the prominent Putra Mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital, complained to the police.

"The charges against both Mr. Harris and Mr. Rupert were dropped and both released," the spokesman said, as reported by CNSNews. "I am not sure if they are still in the country."

According to CNSNews, Rupert and Harris had been accused of an offense under a clause in Malaysia's criminal code prohibiting actions causing "disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing ... the maintenance of harmony or unity on grounds of religion."

If convicted, they could have been jailed for 2-5 years.

While Malaysia’s constitution protects freedom of religion, Sunni Islam remains as the country’s official religion and Muslims are not permitted to convert to another faith. Attempting to convert a Muslim in Malaysia is considered a crime.

According to a policy recently reaffirmed by the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, Bibles published in the Malay language are required to be stamped with the words "Not for Muslims."

In mid-2004, authorities said moviegoers wanting to view Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ would have to produce national identification cards showing religious affiliation to ensure only Christians were allowed in to screenings.

The Voice of the Martyrs reports that 58 percent of Malaysia’s population are Muslim, 21.6 percent are Buddhist, 9.2 percent are Christian, 5 percent are Hindu, and 4.5 percent are non-Religious or other.