Tensions between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia have quickly escalated in the recent days following the advocacy of a "Bible-burning festival," an idea fueled by a parliament member's recent comments.
The controversy stems from recent comments made by independent parliament member Ibrahim Ali, founder and leader of Perkasa, a non-governmental Malay Supremacy organization which advocates the rights of the Muslim Malay majority in the country.
In a recent media program, Ali reportedly advocated that all Muslims burn Bibles which give reference to God as "Allah," as extremist Muslims in the country believe that term belong solely to Islam, according to The Malaysian Insider.
Following this controversial proclamation, a small, unknown group has created flyers advocating a "Bible-burning festival" in the Penang state of the country for Sunday, Jan. 27.
"To Muslims who have copies of al-Kitab, bring them over to make our Bible-burning session merrier," reads the text on the flyer, which was also reportedly published on the Malaysiakini web portal, according to RT.com.
Additionally, the flyer reportedly suggested that a Bible-burning would "teach [Christians] a lesson."
Malaysia's National Evangelical Christian Fellowship's chairman the Rev. Dr. Eu Hong Seng recently told Christians in the Asian country to maintain moderation in response to parliament member Ali's recent comments.
"This unfortunate proposal to burn Malay Bibles containing the word 'Allah' serves as a serious reminder to all Malaysians to be more measured in our responses the next time we hear of some unreasonable people in the West wanting to burn other people's Scriptures because we too have our fair share of unreasonable people," Eu said in a three-paragraph statement, according to The Malaysian Insider.
"We are a peace-loving people who will continue to pray for the well being of our great country," the Rev. Eu added.
Some are calling for the prosecution of Ali due to his recent comments, arguing that they violate the country's penal codes regarding seditious acts.
"This incident together with the contemptuous statement by another Perkasa leader against a judge and the judiciary suggest that Perkasa is allowed to behave with impunity," Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee, who oversees professional lawyers in the country, said in a recent statement, as reported by Reuters.
The latter part of Lim's statement is in reference to a letter written by another Perkasa leader in early January of this year attacking a high court judge presiding over a defamation case.
The contention between Malaysia's minority Christian and majority Muslim population regarding the use of the word "Allah" in the Bible dates back to 2010, when a high court ruled that the Roman Catholic Church also has the right to call their God "Allah," along with the Islamic religion.
Additionally, in March 2011, the Christian Federation of Malaysia, which is comprised of the nation's largest Christian denominations, spoke out against the reported detainment of imported Bibles written in the national Bahasa Malaysia language.
The umbrella Christian organization suggested that the seizures are linked to the 2010 debate regarding use of the word "Allah" in the Christian faith.
As Reuters points out, this recent controversy among Christians and Muslims comes at an unstable time for the country, when an upcoming election must be decided by April 2013.
In order to maintain power, the ruling Barisa National coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak must reportedly seek the vote of the country's majority Malays, as the coalition has substantially lost the approval of the country's 25 percent ethnic Chinese population, a substantial number of which are Christian.