Catholic bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing has denounced the two conditions imposed by the Home Ministry for the release of detained consignments of 'Al-Kitab' as "crass forms of censorship redolent of the communist era".
The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, speaking toMalaysiakini in his capacity as titular head of the Malacca-Johor diocese, said the news of thegovernment's release yesterday of the detained consignment was "welcome but the two conditions are plainly unacceptable".
The two conditions, conveyed by the Home Ministry to the importer of the copies in Kuching, were that each copy should carry a serial number and should be stamped 'For Christians Only'.
"The two conditions smack of crass forms of censorship redolent of the communist era when reading material was the monopoly of the reigning oligarchy," decried Bishop Paul.
"The two conditions are flatly unacceptable to Christians who are duty bound to bring the good news of salvation to all who want to listen.
"In Malaysia, we draw a line on this dissemination where Muslims are concerned because the law of the land prohibits proselytising among Muslims.
"In this respect, we defer to Caesar what Caesar has legislated but the two tacked on stipulations in this instance are egregious and flatly unacceptable."
The shipment arrived at Kuching Port on Jan 11, but the consignee was advised against taking it out the following day as the copies contain the word 'Allah'.
The 30,000 copies, costing US$26,400, were printed in Indonesia for distribution to churches, schools and longhouses mostly in Betong and Saratok areas.
Bishop Paul described the two conditions as akin to releasing a prisoner who has been unjustifiably detained and then slapping him with a restricted residence order.
"After telling the prisoner that he is free, you tell him that he has to stay indoors between dusk to dawn," he said.
"You may as well put him back in prison," chided the prelate.