KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has increased funding for the purpose of Islamic development from the previous RM1.1 billion to RM1.2 billion next year.

“Islam, as the official religion, has a special position in the Federal Constitution. Therefore, the government allocates RM1.2 billion for 2019, compared to RM1.1 billion for the year 2018, to ensure that the development of Islam is not affected, given the challenging economic outlook,” Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said, in tabling the 2019 Budget.

The Bagan MP said that the government has also allocated an additional RM150 million to build mosques and suraus nationwide, under the ‘Khaira Ummah’ initiative, to create more professionals who are huffaz experts, and to create religious education modules in braille.

In 2015, then deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki reportedly said that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) needed more than RM1 billion for 2016 if it is to better combat “extremist” ideologies like the Islamic State (IS), liberalism, pluralism, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs claimed the RM724.6 million set aside for Jakim the following year was insufficient.

The allocation courted controversy, with Johor monarch, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar also expressing his shock and puzzlement over the matter.

In September this year, Asyraf’s successor Fuziah Salleh said that Jakim’s annual budget that is now RM810 million is reasonable as it also pays for Islamic education teachers conducting Quran and Fardu Ain (KAFA) classes.

Fuziah was asked if she expected government allocation for Jakim’s budget next year to exceed this year’s RM810 million.

Fuziah highlighted that half of the budget went to paying the salaries of around 32,000 KAFA contractual teachers nationwide, suggesting that the allocation for their pay could be shifted from Jakim in the future if the teachers are given permanent posts.

According to the Finance Ministry’s forecast federal expenditure for 2018, RM810.89 million is the estimated operating expenditure by Jakim for this year. This is an increase from its almost RM744.95 million operating budget last year.