The State of Pahang bans the placement of bibles and other non-Islamic materials in hotel rooms. The Pahang Islamic and Malay Customs Council (MAIP) has prohibited hotel proprietors in the state from placing religious reading materials of other religions other than Islam in their rooms (read here). The rationale given was that such placement is construed as propagation. This follows hot on the heels of what JAIS did in Selangor by confiscating bibles stored inside Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) premises, also on the reason of propagation.
What on earth is happening in Malaysia now? We get the rise of Islamic agencies in various states using the propagation enactments to curb expressions and practices of non-Islamic religions under the broadest interpretation of propagation.
Legal professionals debate the opinions whether such actions flies in the face of the interpretation of our Federal Constitution allowing for all religions to govern their own affairs and that actions done by JAIS and MAIP are unconstitutional.
But until the Supreme Court rules, the rest of the noise is more coffee shop talk amongst concerned Malaysians.
Why are our leaders remaining silent? In Malaysia, silence do mean consent and not that our country leaders are mulling over the how to respond either.
For over 50 years, international groups like The Gideons have been placing bibles in hotel rooms around the world. Today, that action is prohibited in Pahang and any bibles placed must be removed. MAIP is the state vehicle to execute the latest action. Why complain now? How can bible placement be the same as propagation? It is not like they are lying all over the place. From what some say, The Gideons and other similar groups have been placing the bibles inside the dressing table or side table drawers for more then 50 years in Malaysia.
If this latest MAIP action is not censured, the lack of it means the Cabinet supports it. The ramifications are quite broad.
It means the Federal Government will encourage the enforcement, otherwise, some Minister if not PM Najib will have spoken up. It is, after all, in Pahang, the home state of PM Najib.
It means that the State Governments, where such propagation enactments are encouraged, will increase they enforcement and surveillance on non-Islamic bodies in attempts to curb their movement, practice and appearances under the excuse of propagation.
It can eventually lead to curtailing the display of crosses on church walls and rooftops, the sauwastika on their own buddhist temples, no bell ringing for churches and Indian temples, and even to the point of wearing of crosses and amulets on hands will be construed as propagation.
The broad interpretation of propagation can be seen as an act of subjugating non-Islamic groups to behave in ways where the muftis and imans will declare over non-Muslims. This is totally against the Federal Constitution but the current rise of such actions appear to be the beginnings of an Islamic attitude on non-Muslims using laws which non-Muslims have really no say whatsoever.
The two situations by JAIS and MAIP imply the intent of subjugation and not the stopping of actual propagation. Unless the Federal Government through the AG directs the re-wording of the various state enactments on propagation and the respective State Governments fine tune those enactments, we will continue to see actions by state Islamic agencies under the guise of preventing propagation.
Is this what we envision Malaysia to become?