Thursday, January 23, 2014

Agong is not the head of Islam, says constitutional law expert


V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITORJANUARY 22, 2014LATEST UPDATE: JANUARY 22, 2014 06:31 PM

Malaysia has no head of Islam and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is only the head of religion in his own home state and in states without rulers, said a constitutional law expert.
Former International Islamic University Malaysia academic Dr Abdul Aziz Bari (pic) said the more appropriate platform to represent the rulers on religious issues is the Conference of Rulers.
"It appears that not all the rulers view the way of the Agong and the Sultan of Selangor," Abdul Aziz said in a statement.
"It may not even bind the Muslims as the resolution made by the National Fatwa Council in 1986, which was cited by the Agong in his address, has no legal standing," he said.
As such, he said the statement made by the Agong on the "Allah" issue last week had no effect.
On Sunday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah had stated that several Arabic words, including "Allah", were exclusive to Muslims.
The Agong, who is also the Kedah Sultan, cited a 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council which prohibits non-Muslims from using the words.
In November, the Sultan of Selangor also said that non-Muslims in his state could not use the word.
The Agong is appointed on a five-year rotational basis among the nine Malay rulers and is head of the religion of his state, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Malacca and the Federal Territories.
Abdul Aziz said the rulers, despite being the head of religion, had no power to lay down the laws of Islam.
"Only the Holy Prophet has the power to do so. Even the companions and later the caliphs had no such power. The position of the rulers is inferior to that of the caliphs.
"In any case, only the laws of Islam that is contained in the constitution and the relevant legislation can be enforced," he said.
Abdul Aziz also said the Agong's statement was not quite in line with the 10-point solution agreed by the Federal Government in 2011.
The 10-point solution which was endorsed by the cabinet, among others, allowed Christians nationwide to use the AlKitab in their religious practices.
"The rulers have no effect on non-Muslims as the right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. No authority can tell non-Muslims how they should practise their religion.
"Even for the Muslims, it is for the religion itself to regulate how they should practise Islam," he said.
He said the statement on the "Allah" issue may not even bind the Muslims as there was is no clear basis for it.
"In fact, some religious scholars such as Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawy had stated that it was fine for non-Muslims to use the name."
Abdul Aziz said the Agong, in his performance of the religous functions, may not listen to the advice of Putrajaya and was this was in line with the way the Constitution stipulated how the rulers function as head of religion.
He said the duty to abide by the government's advice under Article 40 (1) of the Constitution is a general requirement.
"I do not think this includes the Agong's religious functions," he said.
Negeri Sembilan Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir, at his investiture ceremony in conjunction with his 66th birthday last week, urged Malaysian Muslims to respect each individual’s religion to avoid disharmony.
“In a Malaysian context, the Constitution has set Islam as the official religion of the country without hindering others to practise their own religions," Tuanku Muhriz had said.
“With that, I urge Malaysian Muslims to continue living in harmony with each other and ensuring respect is given to others who practise different religions.”
Tuanku Muhriz also called on leaders of every community to cast aside sentiments which can destroy the harmony the country is thriving in.
Abdul Aziz said that not many people knew that the White Paper which accompanied the Merdeka Constitution final draft stated that Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) should be put under the Conference of Rulers.
"Now Jakim is being put as a unit under the Prime Minister's Department which I think is quite wrong," he said. – January 22, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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