Pro-moderation group G25 has clarified their stand on the laws against apostasy and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), following criticisms by several quarters.
On Saturday, G25 had released a report — Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam — where they spoke out against apostasy laws, saying that a Muslim's decision to leave Islam was between that person and God.
“On apostasy, we wish to state categorically that G25 does not condone nor encourage Muslims to leave Islam," the group said in a statement today.
“On the contrary, we believe apostasy is a major sin in Islam and Muslims should remain faithful to the religion both in their private as well as their public life.
“However, if they insist, and especially if they are recent converts, they should be given the right to do so as the constitution guarantees the freedom of worship not only to non-Muslims but to all Malaysians.”
They pointed out that other Muslim countries, such as Morocco, do not make apostasy a criminal offence because of the contextual interpretation of murtad (apostasy).
G25 said during the time of Prophet Muhammad, apostasy was a punishable offence because there were Muslims who became traitors by deserting to the enemy to fight against him and the Islamic nation-state.
“Thus, (at that time) it was a matter of politics and not a religious doctrine," G25 said.
“Apostasy cum treachery, as opposed to apostasy per se, was then treated as high treason and considered right to make it punishable by death.
“According to the Moroccan religious authorities, this justification no longer applies in modern times,” G25 said.
In their Jan 11 report, the group had also questioned the constitutional validity of the National Council of Islamic Affairs (MKI) and Jakim.
In their clarification, G25 said they do not advocate for the abolition of Jakim.
As the Federal Constitution does not empower the Conference of Rulers to establish the MKI, they advised that if the Malay rulers want the power to create MKI and make Jakim its secretariat, they can do so by amending Article 38 of the constitution.
This would enhance the role of the Conference of Rulers in matters on the administration of Islam.
“We would welcome the amendment to make Jakim constitutional.
“This federal department in the Prime Minister’s Department has a big budget, bigger than the budget of some ministries.
“It will be embarrassing and legally risky to the government if somebody questions the legality of allocating public funds to Jakim and bring up the matter to court for a ruling on the constitutional status of the department,” G25 said, adding they believe they were being constructive when they pointed this out to the government.
Unfortunately, some chose to highlight the findings of the study on the unconstitutionality of Jakim and ignore the recommendations including taking steps to render it constitutional, they said.
“We welcome the various comments on the findings in the report as we believe that through dialogue and exchange of views, we can strengthen the administration of Islam in our country and make it a model for application in public policy in modern times,” they said.
Previously, G25 had faced criticisms from PAS who had accused them of promoting un-Islamic concepts through the findings of their report.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religion Mujahid Yusof Rawa had also defended the legality of Jakim and MKI following the G25 report.