Put Jakim under Conference of Rulers, Muslim lawyers’ group suggests

Zainul said Putrajaya must still fund Jakim even if it is placed under the Conference of Rulers. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Zainul said Putrajaya must still fund Jakim even if it is placed under the Conference of Rulers. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — A Muslim lawyers’ group proposed today that the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) be moved from under the Prime Minister’s Department to the Conference of Rulers while still retaining government funding, amid calls for the department to be abolished.

Malaysian Muslim Lawyers’ Association president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said the federal Islamic agency has successfully managed to synchronise legal differences between the states without encroaching on their individual powers. Under the Federal Constitution, Islamic law is a state, not federal matter.

“PPMM takes this opportunity to avoid such allegations by proposing that Jakim be revamped and placed directly under the Conference of Rulers, with its expenses to be funded by the federal government,” Zainul Rijal said in a statement, using the initials for his organisation.

“In this way, Jakim will be seen as being more effective in doing Islamic work without political influence,” he added.

Tawfik Ismail, member of pro-moderation group G25 that comprises former civil servants, has reportedly suggested that Jakim be dissolved to allow the country to return to a time when the federal government did not meddle in the religious affairs and practices of citizens.

Zainul Rijal said Putrajaya must still fund Jakim even if it is placed under the Conference of Rulers, citing Article 12(2) of the Federal Constitution that states that “it shall be lawful” for the federal or state government to establish or maintain Islamic institutions, including incurring expenditure as necessary.

The lawyer also cited Article 11(3) of the Federal Constitution that states that every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes.

He claimed that Article 11(3) would not be realised if Islamic affairs are placed under the purview of other government ministries, saying that the Health Ministry, for example, is led by a non-Muslim.

There are, however, Islamic religious departments throughout the various states in Malaysia.

According to Zainul Rijal, Jakim was set up in 1997 after a Conference of Malay Rulers meeting in 1968 decided that a body should be formed to drive efforts to develop Muslims in Malaysia.

Among others, the role of Jakim is to do policymaking in Islamic affairs, to help draft and synchronise laws that are needed and to act as an information centre on Islamic matters, said Zainul Rijal.

“It must be noted that laws that govern Muslim behaviour are not approved by Jakim, but by the state legislative assemblies through the state Islamic Religious Councils and assented to by the relevant Sultans,” he said.

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