June 2, 2018
Tawfik Ismail to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: Close Jakim and stop playing footsy
by Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com
A frequent critic of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has voiced his opposition to a plan to evaluate the agency’s role, saying it should be dissolved straight away.
“Jakim is redundant as a religious body,” said Tawfik Ismail, who served as MP for Sungai Benut from 1986 to 1990.
He spoke to FMT in reaction to Putrajaya’s announcement that a committee would be appointed to decide whether Jakim should continue with its current role or “revert to its original purpose”.
Explaining his assertion that the department is redundant, he said: “In the case of halal certificates, the state religious departments are empowered to issue them. If ingredients need to be checked, we have the health and agriculture ministries, which have all the necessary equipment and expertise.
“Moreover, if an item is halal in, say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Jordan, why would it need the Malaysian halal certification? This adds to the cost, putting consumers at a disadvantage.
“And there are complaints that the manufacturer has to pay all charges for a Jakim team to verify the halal quality of a product, even if the product is manufactured in Malaysia.”
Tawfik questioned whether the attempt to save Jakim was really an attempt to save Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s face.
“Mahathir doesn’t want to admit that setting up Jakim was wrong and that it was done only in an attempt to paint himself as more Islamic than PAS.”
He also said he suspected that Jakim had gone beyond what Mahathir initially had in mind for it, adding that this might be the reason for the controversial actions taken in recent years by itself and other religious bodies that likely followed its example.
“There were the ridiculous issues over hot dogs and root beer, the court action against Borders Bookstore, and the shaming of Mustafa Akyol.”
In May 2012, Borders manager Nik Raina Abdul Aziz was charged by the Federal Territories Religious Department (Jawi) for allegedly selling a book that defiled Islam. The civil Court of Appeal eventually found that the book, Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty and Love”, had not been prohibited by any religious authority or the home ministry at the time the charge was made in a shariah court.
The appellate court concluded that Nik Raina was charged simply because she was a Muslim and because Jawi could not exercise its jurisdiction over her employer or her non-Muslim supervisor. It ruled that the proceedings against her were “unreasonable” and “irrational” and offended “the principle of fairness and justice”.
Last September, Akyol, a Turkish journalist, ran into trouble with the religious authorities during a visit to Malaysia for allegedly teaching Islam without credentials.
FMT’s attempts to reach Jakim for its comment on Putrajaya’s plan have failed.