Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Tangkak Hymnal case - December 2014

The Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), in early December 2014, seized 31 hymnals titled, "Mari Kita Memuji Allah Kita," from Cyril Mannayagam, a Catholic priest in Tangkak, Johor. 

"Johor deputy CID chief Assistant Commissioner Dennis Lim said the case was being investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion."

Section 298A - The then Supreme Court in Mamat Daud [1988] 1 CLJ (Rep) 197 did rule, by a majority of 3-2 (majority decision of Salleh Abas LP, George Seah, and Mohd Azmi, with Hashim Yeop Sani and Eusoffe Abdoolcader dissenting) that section 298A of the Penal Code is INVALID and therefore NULL and VOID and of NO EFFECT and that order took effect from 13 October 1987. 

It is a waste of the time for the PDRM to investigate an offence pursuant to a law - s.298A Penal Code - that has been declared by the then highest court of Malaysia to be of "no effect".

In light of what has happened at Tangkak, Johor, I reread the 10-point solution explanation by Idris Jala. Two key points are as follows:-

1. "The act of “propagation” is the crux of the matter. While the 10-Point Solution allows Christians and churches to use the ALKITAB, which contains some of the 34 prohibited words, the 10-Point Solution does not condone the ACT OF “PROPOGATION” of non-Muslim faiths to Muslims."

2. "In summary, the 10-Point Solution permits the ALKITAB, conditionally in Peninsular Malaysia but unconditionally in Sabah and Sarawak."

Fact 1: A hymnal is not an Al-Kitab.
Therefore, the 10-point solution is in no way applicable to the facts of this case.

Nothing in the given facts of the case indicate that Cyril was doing anything more than ordering copies of the hymnal to be made at the photocopy shop - to be used during Christmas by his Orang Asli congregation (who use BM as the language of service), i.e. there was NO PROPOGATION of Christianity by Cyril to Muslims.

Note: Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution is crystal clear: "STATE LAW and in respect of the Federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the PROPOGATION of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam."

Fact 2: There does not seem to be a similar provision in Johor that prohibits the use of the term "Allah" by non-Muslims (as there is in Selangor)
i.e. Section 9 of the Enakmen Kawalan dan Sekatan Pengembangan Agama-Agama Bukan Islam 1991 [Johor] IS NOT THE SAME AS Section 9 of the Enakmen Ugama Bukan Islam (Kawalan Pengembangan Di Kalangan Orang Islam) 1988 [Selangor]. 

I can hazard a guess, in my limited capacity, of what might happen with the Johor hymnal case. 

The most likely conclusion would be the eventual return of the hymnals to Cyril Mannayagam. 

There may perhaps be, in the future, an amendment to the Johor Enactment to specify words that cannot be used by non-Muslims, as has been done in Selangor (see s.9 read together with the 1st Schedule of the Selangor Enanctment).


- Idris Jala's 24 Feb 2014 statement -

Jason Kay
17 December 2014


Police return Christian hymnals to Johor priest
18 December 2014

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