Pahang’s decision to ban Bibles in hotel unlawful
By Yiswaree P.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 24:
A Syariah and constitutional expert today pointed out that Pahang’s decision to ban Bibles from being placed in hotels in the state was unlawful.
“If one were to look at the law, clearly the state possesses the power to restrict any doctrine propagating other religious teachings to Muslims,” lawyer Nizam Bashir said.
“However, pursuant to the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Among Muslims Enactment 1989, in line with Article 11 (4) of the Federal Constitution, the Pahang State Legislative Assembly enacted the Enactment of the Control and Restriction on the Expansion of non-Islamic Religions 1989.”
Nizam said that the point of law the state relied on with regard to this enactment was Section 8 (1).
“This is where I have a problem. When they passed the act, they could only rely on this section and in this, there is no mention ‘for the purpose of propagation’,” Nizam told The Rakyat Post today.
He said other than pointing out that it was a crime to distribute, the section was deemed unconstitutional.
“There is no important prerequisite that the distribution is indeed for the purpose of propagation.”
Nizam said therefore, any hotel in Pahang could take the state government to court and argue on the said point.
“Should it then become invalid, the state cannot rely on it as it will not be an offence to distribute the publications.”
However, Nizam said from a policy perspective, he did not throw his support behind such acts, because provisions such as these prevented Muslims from knowing the Bible.
“The problem among Muslims is fear… they are fearful but there is no need to be so. Even if this kind of provisions exist, we shouldn’t fear or prevent Muslims from reading the Bible.”
He added some of the best Muslim scholars today were those who had read the Bible.
“You can still read the Bible and say — hei, look, I read it but I still love my Muslim brothers and sisters.”
The Pahang Islamic and Malay Customs Council prohibited hotel operators in the state from placing religious reading materials of other religions other than Islam in their rooms.
MAIP deputy president, Datuk Seri Wan Abdul Wahid Wan Hassan yesterday said that a letter of prohibition on the matter had been sent to 147 hotels across the state since March 6.
“Those who defy the directive can be subjected to legal action.
“The letter of prohibition was issued under the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Among Muslims Enactment 1989, in line with Article 11 (4) of the Federal Constitution.
“With that, a non-Muslim or the hotel management is prohibited from placing the Bible or any material or document relating to a non-Islamic religion in public reading rooms, especially in hotel rooms.
“If such materials have been placed there, they must be removed immediately.”
Wan Abdul said the act of placing such materials in hotel rooms could be regarded as an act of spreading other religious beliefs to Muslims.
“If convicted, those involved can be taken to court and face a fine of up to RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.”