pamphlets to Muslims, news agencies reported Wednesday, April 27. The French News Agency (AFP) quoted police officials as saying that the two men were detained on Monday and that a local court had ordered them to be held for 14 days to assist in investigations.
"We want to find out if they had breached any regulations in Malaysia," an unidentified police spokesman was quoted as saying. It is reportedly an offence in mainly-Muslim Malaysia to try to convert Muslims away from their faith. Another police official named the two men as Ricky Ruperd, in his 30s, and Zachry Harris, in his 20s, AFP said.
The official Bernama news agency was quoted as saying that the two men were arrested for distributing pamphlets with religious content at Malaysia’s new administrative capital Putrajaya, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur. Putrajaya police chief Mohamad Khalil Kadir Mohamad reportedly said the men were detained "during routine checks" by police and were found to be without any travel documents.
A spokesman for the US embassy confirmed the detentions but would give no further details, AFP reported. News of the detentions was expected to add to concern among human rights groups about pressure on Malaysian Christians.
The Christian community has already been suffering because of attacks against churches, "with a number of incidents of burning and bombing cited since [the] September 11, 2001" terrorist attacks against the United States, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"Other faiths [than Muslim] are increasingly discriminated against at state level following the rise of Islamism in Malaysia," added CSW in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife. "Legal restrictions exist prohibiting propagation of other faiths among the Muslim community whereas Muslim missionaries receive state support to spread Islam."
"NOT FOR MUSLIMS"
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said earlier this month there was no ban on Bibles published in the Malay language but they must be stamped with the words "Not for Muslims", AFP recalled. Evangelical Christians say the Bible, which they see as Gods’ Word, is for everyone.
The prime minister was reportedly responding to questions after a minister told parliament the government did not allow editions of the Bible published in Malay to be distributed as it could be construed as an effort to spread Christianity among Muslim-Malays. Some 60 percent of Malaysia’s population are Muslims, while there are large ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities who practice other religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, according to estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and Stefan J. Bos)