KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 ― The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) is tarnishing the image of Islam with its narrow-mindedness, independent preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin said today in the wake of lawyer Eric Paulsen’s recent arrest over his allegedly seditious tweet criticising the authority.
The preacher also defended any criticism of Jakim, saying it is “healthy” for Muslims to be reminded that the federal religious authority does not necessarily represent Islam, and that it has at times tarnished Islam’s image as a religion of peace.
“Many of Jakim’s views do not illustrate the broadness of Islam like its real teachings,” Wan Ji said in a statement.
Wan Ji said some of Jakim’s actions and handling of cases could even be construed as being in conflict with Islam’s fundamental principles, such as compassion and wisdom.
“Criticising Jakim is a healthy thing. This is because it presents a good image of Islam, in that people will understand that any statement made by Jakim does not necessarily represent Islam.
“At least it gives the impression that Islam and Jakim are two separate things,” added Wan Ji.
The preacher than listed down several cases where Jakim had made missteps, including its arrest of a woman for feeding dogs during the Ramadan month, and its reaction towards the pet-a-dog event organised by social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi.
Wan Ji explained that Jakim’s stand on dog-touching is odd, as most schools of jurisprudence are still vague on the issue.
“Jakim’s perspective on Islam is seen as awkward… when a minister who represents Jakim remarked that in Malaysia, the school of jurisprudence followed is the Shafi’i school.
“This statement is contradictory because a lot of practices in Malaysia do not follow the Shafi’i school,” he added, citing as examples the zakat payments and permission to explore lands.
Wan Ji then clarified that criticising Jakim cannot be taken to mean criticising Islam. As such, he said, the same can be said of criticisms against the contents of Jakim’s Friday sermons or any of the authority’s decisions.
“Any criticism towards Jakim, must be answered by Jakim academically, not through power. Using power to handle criticism, is not only undignified, but can be seen as against Quranic principles,” he suggested.
Last Friday, Paulsen allegedly posted on Twitter a remark that read: “Jakim is promoting extremism every Friday. Govt needs to address that if serious about extremism in Malaysia.”
Paulsen was arrested on Monday night by between 15 and 20 police officers, before being remanded for two days. He has since been released.