Police in Malaysia are on alert and Christians are restating their rights to religious freedom as an unknown group plans to torch the Malay-language Bible, the Alkitab, in a "Bible-burning" festival on Sunday over the use of the word "Allah."
The proposed "Bible-burning" festival was incited by an independent parliament member's recent call to burn Malay-language bibles containing the word "Allah," an Arabic term for god Muslims insist is exclusive to Islam.
Ibrahim Ali, founder Perkasa, a non-governmental Malay Supremacy organization, made the statement during the group's convention last week, according to The Malaysian Insider, a news portal in the Southeast Asian country.
Following Ali's remarks, a small group handed out flyers inviting people to burn Malay Bibles in a festival in the country's state of Penang as a way to teach Christians "a lesson."
"To Muslims who have copies of al-Kitab, bring them over to make our Bible-burning session merrier," read the flyer, according to the web portal Malaysiakini.
The Penang police chief has warned that police will not hesitate to arrest any one who shows up to participate in the Bible-burning event. He also said that those who publicizes the festival will also be arrested and charged under the Penal Code for uttering words with deliberate intent to hurt another religious group.
"I urge the public not to be influenced but the 'rumours' in this pamphlet which was obviously created by irresponsible individuals to threaten the safety and harmony of the public," the Insider reported police chief Datuk Abd Rahim Hanafi as saying.
Christian groups across the Muslim-dominated country, where 60 percent of the 28 million population follow Islam, have condemned calls to burn the Malay Bible.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia has issued a statement rebuking the call to burn Bibles.
Another Christian group is urging authorities to take action to stop the "anti-Christian frezny."
"We see the increasingly provocative attacks against the Malay-language bible — Alkitab — by certain quarters as a direct attack on the rights of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah to religious freedom as enshrined in both the Sabah and the Federal Constitution," said Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing, chairman of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Commission of Sabah Affairs, according to The Malaysian Insider.
"We, therefore, urge the authorities to act immediately against such groups and individuals to the full extent of the law before the anti-Christian frenzy gets out of hand."
Since the 2008 election, religious tensions between Muslims and the Christian minority have continued to escalate. In 2010, a High Court ruling that the Catholic Church also had the right to call its god "Allah" also fanned the flames, sparking attacks against houses of worship.