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January 2, 2014

Malaysian authorities seize Bibles containing 'Allah'

Raid on Christian group enforces court ruling that Arabic word for God is exclusive to Muslims.

Malaysian Muslims protest against the introduction of a Malay language bible that uses the word Allah for God, at the national mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 15 2011. (EPA/SHAMSHAHRIN SHAMSUDIN)

Malaysian Islamic authorities seized more than 300 Bibles from a Christian group in a raid Thursday in Selangor state, stoking outrage online by Christians and Muslims alike. JAIS raided the offices of the Bible Society of Malaysia and arrested two officials, who were later released on bail.  The Selangor Islamic Authority (JAIS) enforced a court ruling that said use of the Arabic word for God, "Allah", is exclusive to Muslims. The verdict overturned a previous ruling that had permitted the word to be printed in a Roman Catholic newspaper.
It was reportedly the first time that Islamic authorities in Malaysia have entered a Christian organisation on a raid. Many were concerned what the raid meant for the country's religious minorities. A statement by the Bible Society said the group "is deeply shocked that JAIS, whose legal powers are limited to policing Muslims, are now exercising powers of non-Muslims.... This is a sad day heralding the erosion of minority rights". The Bible Society also called on Christians to stay calm.