LETTER | I am not going to be too critical of the Budget 2020 because I am not financially well versed in matters of government, nor am I familiar with fiscal or monetary policies generally.
But its a disappointing Budget, and this has nothing to do with the finance minister.
He is a hard-working man trying his best in very difficult circumstances. It has to do with the lack of vision of this 5 out of 10 Cabinet.
They don't see beyond the next election although they were elected on the promise to save this country.
Let's start with Jakim. I know it's hard to say no the request of a department in the Prime Ministers Office; but what can Jakim conceivably do to save this country that it warrants such a big allocation from the Treasury.
This big allocation is just another confirmation that religious politics are here to stay.
Jakim cannot possibly make Malays "better Muslims ", because we can only be better if we decide to be one; and no government incentives can change what we want to be.
What value creation that is measurable can Jakim offer? By that I mean how will Jakim make the people high-income earners, more united as Malaysians, and more educated.
If the value Jakim offers is to safeguard Muslims interests, what are they? Can the Minister explain? Don't tell us about saving our soul or protect the people from deviant teachings.
If the money is to prevent the spread of Syiah teachings in the country, then its a waste of money.
Nowadays you just go on YouTube to learn many things.
If the purpose is to encourage more Muftis to dabble in political matters, then the government may succeed but how can Muftis in politics add value to the country as a whole.
The government has limited resources, so it is always a question of priority.; The priority given to Jakim shows the direction the country is taking.
If this country continues to give priority to the so-called "religious matters" we will not progress an inch because religious matters in this country are by nature political and therefore divisive.
This PH government has not seen fit to reduce the power of religious bureaucracy despite clear evidence that they undermine democracy, divide the people with their narrow and restrictive understanding of religion.
They undermine human rights because they could not understand the difference between culture and essence of God's message. Yet they get huge allocation.
Even if Jakim received 10 billion ringgit, what do we use as a measure of its success? Just more religious preachers, perhaps more nice-looking mosques, more religious publications, more Syariah courts that are comparable in look to those civil courts.
It will not show the worth of the true Muslims in this country. In fact, too much money will spoil the Muslims for good.
They get greedy for material things and they use money to perpetuate their hold on power. Where are those Muslims lead leaders who live life with simple needs?
Where are they who are guided by right values as human beings; who care for universal justice and global warming?
Government giving religious departments more money than they need is doing a great disservice to the welfare of Muslims as a whole.
They are elected to solve practical worldly problems, and the less they spend on religious bureaucracy the better for the country.
Anyway no matter how seemingly pious or compliant the Malays seem to appear, they may not be "religious" in the eyes of God.
That is something Malays as individuals must resolve with his maker. So any priority given by an elected government by spending to please Muslim sentiment is probably tied to garner political support.
I would not have minded if Jakim is going to spend on genuine reforms in matters of Islamic administration in the country.
Where is the promise for uniformity of Islamic laws, that we heard at the last election? Where is the promise for reforms on laws of inheritance?
Malay land ownership is seriously fragmented, mainly because the" Faraid "dictates the way inheritance is apportioned.
What is clear is that unless Malays can resolve land fragmentation issues, more and more Malay lands will be uneconomic and abandoned in the process.
If Jakim can add economic value to the lives of Muslims along with these economic reforms, then asking for more money makes sense.
Will Jakim do something concrete to make sure the wakaf lands are properly administered; so that the wishes of good Muslims who "wakaf" their lands are observed and honoured.
WIll Jakim has the willingness to compel state religious administration under the Malay sultans to carry out far-reaching reforms for the benefit of Muslims?
I hope next year, whoever is the finance minister or prime minister, please help Muslims in ways that will truly benefit them.
For too many years we spend huge sums of money to pay for salaries of bureaucrats who use religion to make them relevant by supporting political incumbents.
ZAID IBRAHIM is a former law minister.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.