Hannah Yeoh: NGOs and political parties have both used religion for personal gains

Hannah Yeoh speaks to reporters in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 25, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Hannah Yeoh speaks to reporters in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 25, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — The Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister today alleged that non-governmental organisations (NGO) and political parties have both tried making personal and political gains by abusing religion.

“Those abusing religion for their own gains; not just NGOs, political parties also use religion for political gain,” said Hannah Yeoh, triggering uproar from Umno and PAS law makers challenging her to list out the alleged abuses.

“The speaker does not allow us to use news articles but we read the news that says if we lie or solicit bribes, these things can be justified (halalkan) if we use religion as a defence,” she said.  

The dispute had erupted during Yeoh’s winding-up speech today, where lawmakers were discussing some RM20,000 allocated to Sisters in Islam (SiS) by the ministry earlier this month.

Yeoh argued that the allocation was channeled to SiS by her in her own capacity as a deputy minister, which was then objected to by Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang).

Siti Zailah claimed SiS were practising values contradictory to Islam and suggested the government come down hard on NGOs abusing Islam, as it was the federal religion.

“I suggest the government of the day outlaw whatever form of organisation that abuses the name of Islam.

“When the government allocates funds to SiS, it is as though they (function) on the excuse this is for the welfare of women, but at the same time they can confuse, especially Muslim women.

“I hope the cabinet and the ministry, in managing the funds since this is the peoples’ money, don’t go against our constitution and laws stated in the Federal Constitution that sees Islam as the national religion,” said Siti Zailah.

Hannah then retorted saying she had never been confused over the issue of SiS’ eligibility.

“For me and on behalf of the Cabinet, we do indeed recognise Islam as the federal religion, this is clear in the Federal Constitution and we are not disputing this fact.

“The issue that was raised is we need to be careful with organisations that used Islam, for this, I will wait for the Minister in charge of Religious Affairs to provide an answer.

“What is important is that government funding is channelled to help those in need,” Yeoh said.

Speaker of the House Datuk Mohamad Arif Yusof then interjected and halted the exchange.

Mohamad Arif explained the dispute over SiS’ practices being contradictory to Islamic values was still being deliberated in the court of law and any discussions over it would be sub judice.

This follows the Selangor fatwa committee and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) who in 2014 declared that SiS had deviated from the true teachings of Islam.

SiS had challenged the ruling with court proceedings still ongoing.