Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sultans must speak up on Jakim, says law expert


As heads of religion, the sultans cannot remain silent while debate rages over the relevance of the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim), constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said.
The Universiti Selangor (Unisel) lecturer maintained his stand that Jakim, a Federal government agency under the Prime Minister's Department, is unconstitutional on the grounds that authority over Islam is vested in the state rulers and not Putrajaya.
But since Jakim's director-general believed otherwise, the rulers must state their position on the matter, said Aziz, just as they had done with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in October.
"Article 3(2) puts the conference of rulers as the national authority (on Islam), under which the Agong is subservient when it comes to Islam at the federal level.
"That is why the rulers can't remain silent, especially when they have spoken up on 1MDB. A precedent has been set up. Furthermore religion is the monarchy's raison d'etre under the Constitution," Aziz told The Malaysian Insider.
He said the Cabinet should also issue a statement on the matter.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday hit out at Jakim, saying that the department was trying to impose its own version of Islam on others.
He added that religious authorities did not want to think when it came to religion.
"It was Dr Mahathir himself who rebranded what was used to be known as a religious division under the prime minister's department by Tunku," said Aziz, referring to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister.
"And Dr Mahathir used Jakim to become a propaganda machine instead of managing Islamic programmes."
The debate over Jakim's relevance arose when Tawfik Ismail, the son of Malaysia's second deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, said the agency should be abolished as Malaysian Muslims did not need the government to dictate how they practise their faith.
He added that Jakim was redundant as other ministries were already carrying out some of its functions.
In response, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said Jakim had become even more relevant today as it was involved in dealing with Shia and "liberal Islam" as well as threats from the Islamic State militant group. – November 21, 2015.
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