In Malaysia, Islam is big business

November 24, 2015

In Malaysia Islam is big business

by Azrul Mohd. Khalib

MOF Najib Razak

Cash is King PM and Finance Minister

There exists a reality which has been present ever since men discovered organised religion: organised religion as big bsiness.

There are countless examples from history. In ancient Egypt, people would voluntarily give offerings to the cult of Pharaoh in the belief that they were living gods or descended from divinity. Jesus flipped out when he saw the moneylenders at their tables in the temple with the sheep, oxen and pigeons on sale. Martin Luther was so upset about the selling of indulgences as a method of fundraising that he raised hell by nailing 95 objections to the door of a church.

Din's Montage

In more recent times and in our cozy corner of the world, we have seen examples of priests driving luxury cars, wearing expensive watches and living lifestyles more suited to the rich and famous. Just last month, the court decision of a corruption scandal convicting the leaders of a mega church and involving fraud of millions in funds rocked Singapore.

So, being part of organised religion especially in the leadership, can be a lucrative and profitable enterprise both personally and for the faith, of course. It should be no surprise to anyone that those involved would fight tooth and nail on any move which threatens the status quo.

Young Imams

The New Executives of Business Islam

Over the past few weeks, we have heard the bleating and baying of protests from officials, personalities and politicians in response to revelations and accusations alleging the misuse of funds earmarked and intended for religious and humanitarian purposes.

Make no mistake, the amount of money involved in the administration, development and enforcement of Islam in Malaysia is huge. And it involves the use of money from both Muslim and non-Muslim taxpayers. That must be made clear as there is often a mistaken belief, particularly among Muslims that everything dealing with Islamic religious expenditure comes solely from Muslims and that non-Muslims have no right to object or comment on how expenditure is done.

However, regardless of the source of the funds, these religious affiliated bodies must justify the major provisions made to them and also be held accountable, like all other government institutions.

The allocation (2015:RM783 million; 2014: RM 806 million) given to the Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) under the Prime Minister’s Department gets most of the attention and the fuss as it is visible under the federal budget. It is one of the largest allocations under the Prime Minister’s Department.

However, when the different allocations for the Jabatan Agama Islam Negeri under the individual state budgets including that of the Federal Territory are combined and counted in, the annual amount is closer to more than RM 1.2 billion.


The Big Spending Guardian of  Business Islam

The figure increases further when the costs of running the offices of the state muftis, and bodies related to administration of Islamic justice such as the Shariah courts and judiciary, are taken into consideration.

Last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom was happy to announce that the 2013 collection of zakat (tithes) from Muslims in Malaysia had exceeded RM2.2 billion. In fact, data from the Centre for Zakat Collection (Pusat Pungutan Zakat) also indicates that contributions appreciate on an average of around 20 per cent each year. That is a lot of money and it is good that there is such a large amount available for humanitarian and welfare purposes as the need these days is quite great.

Unfortunately, we seem to be good at collecting but less efficient or diligent in delivering much-needed assistance to the intended recipients and beneficiaries.

Malaysia 2050

The Business Outcome-Damaged Goods

Despite the fact that zakat can only be used to help those of the Islamic faith (as opposed to sedekah which is for anyone) and with such large amounts available annually, there are still too many who are being left out or denied help and assistance.

For reasons which range from the moral and undesirable (e.g. being transgender persons, sex workers, living with HIV and AIDS) to the bureaucratic (incomplete paperwork, no address of residence, non-Malaysian), many, especially the poor, homeless and destitute, are left with hands outstretched hoping to receive money and access to services which ironically were established to help and serve them but remain out of reach.

Knowing of this and seeing so many in need has led many Muslims in Malaysia to wonder where the zakat money has gone to despite the huge amounts collected each year. It is an increasing trend for those fulfilling their religious obligation to do so directly to the poor and needy. Simply put, most of those who do so no longer trust the authorities to distribute their zakat.

The recent arrogant and baseless statement by Dato’ Che Mat Che Ali, chair of the Federal Territory Zakat Centre (PPZ-MAIWP) that Malaysian Muslims are committing a sin when they do so lends strength to this distrust. His assertion that such donors were more likely to be generous to “cute widows” or “eloquent speakers”, rather than those truly in need, was really offensive and likely to result in a backlash with more people electing to bypass the PPZ.

Transparency and accountability of funds related to religious bodies is an issue which appears to not be taken seriously by those in authority. Senator Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki recently stated that the two overseas courses by the Yayasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia (Yapeim) ― reportedly costing RM290,000 to organise ― were part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in Malaysia.

Maybe he thinks that we are all stupid or gullible but it is laying it quite thick to expect Malaysians to believe that you had to go all the way to Paris (the city of love!) to do that.

This is on top of the earlier allegations that Jamil Khir, his wife and their entourage had used over RM400,000 in Yapeim funds meant for orphans to pay for an eight-day trip to the US which included shopping sprees and games of golf.

Amidst the fallout came the revelations that this government-backed foundation made a combined annual revenue of RM1.034 billion from 16 profit-making subsidiaries. More than half a million people contribute monthly to Yapeim through a monthly salary deduction scheme which is expected to bring in RM65.73 million this year. A pawn broking business (Ar-Rahnu) is also expected to bring in RM83 million by the end of 2015. Sounds like a successful business.

Let’s not kid ourselves. When it comes to Islam in Malaysia, it is a business. And everyone wants to get a piece of the pie, enjoy the perks and benefits and make a bit of money on the side. All for the faith, of course.

8 thoughts on “In Malaysia, Islam is big business

  1. Well, Dato, it’s true that religion has become a big time business today. We do get such religious, so called, priests the guardians of temples who have enriched themselves by merely collecting money from people when they go to temples to offer prayers where the priest say ‘mantra’ in Sanskrit which no one understands what he says. by mumbling few words.

    It has become so complex in religious beliefs, the priests have fixed rates today for all forms religious and cultural ceremonies. This has become a big time game among the religious fanatics They fix the times and dates according to their whims and fancies so as to win over the hearts of their clients by citing the birth signs and other astrological calculations to convince them. These bigots of religion don’t have to pay any taxes from this ‘God’s given money’ and they enjoy life more than an ordinary person.

    Coming to your article this morning, I wonder how the authorities separate halal money from non-halal for their religious use from PMO to spend on religious activities for Muslim under YaPIEM round the world which have been highlighted lately by NOW. I raised this issue because non-Malays do contribute in the form taxes to government. What about the gambling money from Sports Toto and Gentings going to Consolidated Fund?

    The irony is that IGP wants to probe on the whistle blower on how NOW managed to get the documents to accuse YaPiem rather than probing on the spender alleged to have misused funds from Muslim Organisations. It’s heart breaking to read of their spree spending overseas for matters I believe no importance to human dignity.. It’s madness!

  2. The Golden Calf has made its comeback. And it mostly affects the adherents of the official religion of the country, with the officials being the biggest beneficiaries and culprits of this most unholy of practices. And all the while preaching piously and prostrating diligently in a a big show of piety. Morality and a sense of shame is largely absent as the greed of these creeps does not even preclude stealing from the mouths of orphans and widows.

  3. If power is given, then I wonder about the rakyats who give such power to those who perpetuate the plundering. Who are the enablers? Who get ‘sucked in’ whenever the word “Islam” or even “religion” or “ugama” is uttered? From where I sit, I can’t help but feel glad that I decided to be where I am today and equally sad about those that I love who are still in my “tanah air” (the sentiment is simply this: tempat jatuh lagi di kenang, ini kan pula tempat bermain). Everytime I turn on webpages or socialmedia on and anything related to Malaysia, I see themes that are incongruent: on one hand, the focusing on anything Islamic whereas on the other, the persistent plundering of resources by ruling elites. The rakyats are for Islamic ways but the ruling elites conned them into believing that they too are for anything Islamic but their true interest remain anything but Islamic. Look at the general and common lifestyles of Malaysian ruling elites and tell me if it is according to the holy book.

  4. “From Cash is King to Cash is God.”

    Bravo, Wayne.

    Exactly. Most times all organized Religions have this as their underlying theme.

    It is particularly bad here in Malaysia. Bad in the sense that as a stable Muslim country – unlike the rest of the cesspits – Islamic funds are looted and monies from a socially and economically disadvantaged polity are not used to “uplift” them but rather as means of control (bad) or as revenue streams (very bad) for a certain class of Malay elite.

  5. “In Malaysia, Islam is big business”

    Yes indeed.

    Also to share this…

    Mobile – Malaysia – DAP dares Putrajaya to segregate gambling income @ Mon Dec 06 2010 – http://www.themalaysianinsider…ng-income/

    “In a written reply to Chong today, the Finance Ministry, which is under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself, announced that the government had earned a total of RM1,199,574,646 in tax revenue from six numbers forecast operations (NFOs) in 2009 and RM988,781,852 until September 30 this year.

    The ministry also revealed that it had collected taxes worth RM105,514,511 from “special draws” in 2009 and RM90,096,781 until September 30 this year. In total, the government has earned over RM1.08 billion in taxes from both the NFOs and “special draws” to date this year…”

    “If you add it with money earned from Genting, the total revenue would come up to at least RM2.3 billion in just one year. And then this RM2.3 billion goes back into the Consolidated Fund…”

    History – The Genting Story – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – – Genting Malaysia Berhad – Board of Directors –
    Genting Group – Genting Berhad Annual Reports –

    Finally, how do the Holier than thou Muslim Civil servants feel about their salaries being paid out by their Putrajaya Masters from the Consolidated Funds?

    You be the judge.

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