Malaysiakini Yoursay

Yoursay: To slash or not to slash Jakim's monster budget?

Yoursay  |  Published:  |  Modified:

YOURSAY | If all we needed were new ideas with the same old faces, we might as well have stuck with Umno.

The problem with Mujahid’s ‘moderation’

ChuenTick: Malaysiakini columnist Commander S Thayaparan is spot on when he wrote, "How can people think that (Minister in Prime Minister's Office) Mujahid Yusof Rawa is the reformer he claims to be when he thinks that the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) only needs a new face, and his new ideas came from the same source?"

Yet, I still hope Mujahid will not be led by the nose - at least, given his reformist credentials, I hope he will put a stop to all the snooping and trampling of personal rights by Jakim.

Anonymous #47497449: Has Mujahid even done an audit of the Jakim accounts before saying that the budget is okay?

Will he sanction an audit of the accounts to ensure transparency that the Jakim budget is properly spent and accounted for, before even saying otherwise?

Umno Disunited: If all we needed were new ideas with the same old faces, we might as well have stuck with Umno. And it is not a few ringgit of taxpayers’ money we are spending. We spent RM800 million on Jakim last year.

Pakatan Harapan needs to tell Malaysians what value this expenditure is bringing us. Is it not shocking that we spend so much money on religion when there are some among us who have no shelter or food? Just take a walk around Kuala Lumpur and see how many people live on the streets.

David Dass: Mujahid wants to consult both the rulers and the various interpreters of Islamic theology before making decisions on extremist institutions and extremist policies. Here, he finds himself in the usual conflict encountered by all champions of Islam.

But he does not have to consult the experts in Islam on his job. He just has to ensure that our Constitution is respected and followed. PAS' amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355, are unconstitutional.

Unilateral conversion is unconstitutional. Attempts to extend the scope of the syariah with the ultimate objective of introducing hudud is unconstitutional. Imposing the tenets of one faith on the others is unconstitutional.

Freedom of worship is a fundamental liberty. All Malaysian citizens are equal under the law.

But do not give up what you already have. So, do not reduce Jakim's budget. Just use it better. Tahfiz schools are a big issue. There are thousands of them. They are unregulated and outside the curriculum of government schools. How can that be acceptable?

Chinese and Indian vernacular schools are regulated and supervised and must follow the government curriculum. However, not so the tahfiz schools, which can potentially become the breeding ground of extremist ideologies. These are funded by people who have agendas that may conflict with our own nation-building efforts.

It was when the tahfiz school fire tragedy occurred that we learned of the large number of such schools in the country, and of the fact that they were not regulated.

The question was asked - should they not come within the ambit of the Ministry of Education? And a suggestion was made that Jakim should look after these schools, not the MOE.

We should reduce the types of schools in the country. Most Malaysians were shocked to discover the presence of so many tahfiz schools in the country. Do we prepare students for working life or for the afterlife?

Of course, there must be a balance. But what kind of government allows the emergence of schools outside their control and regulation? And disallows non-Muslims from teaching their religions in school?

We want to teach our kids values that become the foundation of our society. And we want to give them the skills and knowledge to make them useful and productive members of our society.

We cannot keep increasing the budget of Jakim just to provide employment for the increasing number of graduates in Islamic studies.

Hplooi: My take on the situation is this:

1) If you note the composition of the cabinet, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is being "strategic" and the key is empowering Amanah as a bulwark against PAS. Hence, the lopsided "win" handed over to Amanah.

2) This means, Dr M very much has the "religion" narrative firmly in mind in the ongoing battleground for hearts and minds, which will be key narrative in the next general election. Thus Dr M is "building up" Amanah for the coming battle. Note the same strategy when we look back more than two decades ago, when Mahathir brought in Anwar Ibrahim (then Abim activist) in a shock move.

3) Building up the religion narrative means not upsetting the apple cart, and that has been the ongoing activities on "reform" for the religious sector. For example, holding on to controversial preacher Zakir Naik's deportation, holding on to the tahfiz schools and so on. His "reforms" are mainly rebranding and/or retooling of existing Islamic institutions ("rebranding" or "retooling" depends on your perspective or political leaning).

4) Lastly, the inordinate huge funding for Jakim and Islamic institutions is seen as a "resource". So (if I am an Amanah strategist), why should I agree to reduce this funding now, when it is within my control? Having financial resources is a huge enabler, which can change the power equilibrium. With that in mind, Amanah and Bersatu (if they can cooperate) have a very good chance of capturing Kelantan, Terengganu and picking up Pahang in the next general election.

Which brings me to my thesis that Umno's strategy on focusing only on race and religion is a losing proposition.

1) This strategy only depends on a race/religion-centric constituency;

2) This constituency is conservative in nature but is not necessarily "reactionary". This means, parties with "progressive" agendas but not necessarily "seen" as "too liberal" or "anti-religion" may actually get a slice of this constituency;

3) Such conservative constituencies are facing increasing competition from multiple parties; and

4) In contrast, Harapan's strategy includes not just the conservative votes but the solid votes of the non-Muslims.

Therefore, if Harapan can successfully reform the electoral system to be more balanced, the over-dependence on the rural-conservative votes will eventually become an even more losing strategy.

Ultimately: While the commander is correct in most parts except for the last, he forgets there is a huge difference between what a politician in BN-brainwashed Malaysia wants to do, and what he or she can do in reality.

When it comes to religion, I am not sure if Thayaparan fully understands the mindset involved. But he answers his own question in an earlier article on the danger of PAS and rising extremism.

That is the sort of thing Mujahid has to dance around.

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These comments are compiled to reflect the views of Malaysiakini subscribers on matters of public interest. Malaysiakini does not intend to represent these views as fact.

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