35,000 Bibles to Be Released by Malaysian Gov't

The Malaysian government has agreed to release all 35,000 Bibles it seized after Christian leaders demanded the books' release.

In a statement made Tuesday, the Prime Minister's department said it was releasing the Bibles as a commitment to resolving "any interfaith issues," which has deeply divided Malaysia's religious groups.

Since this past week, the national government was slammed by irate Christians for holding 5,000 Bibles in Port Klang since March 2009, and another 30,000 copies at the Port of Kuching in Sarawak state.

Although Bibles are not illegal in the Muslim-dominant nation, the 35,000 books were seized amidst an ongoing court battle for the use of "Allah" as a translation for the word "God."

The government views the word "Allah" as exclusive to Islam, and insists that Muslims would be confused by the use of "Allah" in other religious publications.

Malaysia's Christians continually use the word "Allah" to refer to God, arguing that the Arabic word pre-dates Islam and is therefore free for use by other religions.

In 2007, the Catholic Church in Malaysia filed a lawsuit against the government after authorities threatened to revoke the printing permit of a Catholic publication for using the word "Allah."

The nation's Supreme Court later granted Malaysia's religious minorities the right to the word "Allah" in December 2009.

Muslims, angered over the court decision, firebombed 11 churches last January. A Sikh temple, in addition to several mosques and Muslim prayer halls, was also attacked. The government successfully appealed the ruling in February 2010.

Even so, officials had promised to keep the distribution of Bibles in at least the two more populous Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah – as claimed in a statement by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) last Thursday.

CFM comprises the nation's largest Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and ecumenical Christian groups.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Muslims make up 60.4 percent of Malaysia's population of 25.7 million people. In contrast, only about 19.2 percent ascribe to Buddhism, while only 9.1 of Malaysians are Christian.

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