Friday, March 05, 2010

Hishammuddin backs out-of-court settlement in SIB suit

Datuk Seri Hishamuddin prefers an out-of-court settlement with SIB. - Picture by Jack

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today he was in favour of an out-of-court settlement with the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church over the use of the word “Allah” in Christian books.

He told reporters that it would be best if the matter could be settled “within four walls” and out of court, noting that closed-door discussions usually yielded the desired results.

“Any matter that does not go to court would be better.

“So sometimes discussions out of court, within four walls probably get the required results without all the fuss. This is something we have to learn to do, and is something that has been practiced since independence,” said Hishammuddin.

The Home Minister’s remarks came shortly after the High Court today set an April 30 deadline for the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.

If negotiations to settle the three-year dispute are not successful, the High Court will fix a hearing date for the case.

Judge Aziah Ali made the call in her chambers this morning. Her ruling came just two months after another High Court ruled that the Catholic weekly Herald had a constitutional right to use the word Allah to describe the Christian god.

According to Pastor Jerry Dusing, who heads the Sabah SIB branch, the church had resorted to the courts in December 2007 after failing to get the ministry to lift a ban on Christian books imported from Indonesia.

Earlier that year, Royal Customs and Excise Department officers had confiscated at the KLIA low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) eight religious books brought in by the church for its Sunday school classes for children.

The ministry, which controls the department, had claimed the books contained the word Allah which is barred from use by non-Muslims, and seized them to prevent confusing Muslims.

Dusing said the books were teaching references meant only for Christian consumption and would not be used to preach to Muslims, as the ministry appeared to imply.

He suggested to the ministry for the church to stamp the words “For Christian Use Only” or “Christian Publication” on the front cover of all its religious books so that it would be clear to Muslims who may inadvertently land their hands on such books and be confused after reading them.

But the ministry has yet to reply to the church’s idea.

Hishammuddin however affirmed that discussions concerning the matter are already underway.

“I can confirm that we are discussing the matter. If that is the date that has been fixed, either we settle before that date, or we can apply for another date for postponement, or we let the courts decide.

“The channels to resolve all matters outside or within the courts have always been the way I look at matters especially regarding religion and race,” he added.

Hishammuddin also lamented that although an out-of-court settlement would be the best move, solutions for an issue like this may not be so easy.

“Yes, that will be the best way, but when emotional issues become public, because of emotions, sensitivities, because of pride and ego, it does not help in finding a solution amicably.

“In a world that is so porous, information flow is so instantaneous, the stakes become higher...this becomes a security issue,” explained the Home Minister.

The SIB was set up in 1928 and has grown into one of the biggest Christian denominations in Malaysia.

In Sabah alone, there are 120,000 members. In Sarawak, the biggest state, there are more than 100,000 though Dusing was unsure of the actual figure, and in the peninsula, there are 30,000 SIB members.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

1 comment:

Chauncey Gardener said...

The Home Minstry created the problems and now, the SIB has to settle out of court ?

Just get back to status quo and things can start to normalise again ... unless those Perkasa fellows make an issue out of it to "protect the Constitution".

Someone should ask them which parts of the Cnostitution are they protecting if not all of it ?