KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa today appeared to defend Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin as a progressive religious scholar, but also cast doubt on the latter’s attempts to portray Islam as purportedly being under threat in Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) rule.
The minister in charge of religious affairs described the Perlis mufti, popularly known as Dr Maza, as an “old friend” who had in the past lent support to his agenda for reform.
“We frequently exchanged views regarding contemporary Islamic issues, Dr Maza has progressive views especially in social matters and contemporary political Islam,” Mujahid said in a statement, adding that the cleric was supportive of inter-religious dialogue.
But Mujahid also said he was confident that Asri had “noble” intentions when the latter said that Islam’s position was threatened under PH’s rule in a Facebook posts on April 29.
“I also believe his Facebook status that sought views from the public may be to evaluate the performance of the new government in the past year,” Mujahid said, adding that he found Asri’s Facebook post to be confusing.
Asri had recently come under fire for his Facebook posts, including on April 29 where he had publicly sought response to his claim that many feel that Islam was allegedly “increasingly threatened” in Malaysia under the current administration.
In the said post under the in Bahasa Malaysia with the heading “Islam under threat?”, he cited independent Muslim preacher Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu’s arrest for a recent police probe to claim that Islam currently was not in such a safe position in the country.
Noting that Asri’s Facebook post revolved around the issue of police reports lodged by the public regarding Zamri’s alleged insult of the Hindu religion, Mujahid questioned the basis of Asri’s remarks regarding Islam’s position.
“Is it only with this one incident, that it results in a general judgment as summed up such as by saying that Islam is threatened under PH?,” he asked, pointing out that Zamri is now under investigation and has not even been charged in court for any offences.
“Why is something that has yet to be determined the basis for evaluations that Islam in Malaysia under PH’s administration is under threat?” he asked.
Mujahid then went on to list 10 measures as proof of the PH government’s commitment in the past year to ensure Islam is upheld, including the increase of the budget for the administration of Islam to RM1.2 billion.
Mujahid highlighted that additional allocations of RM50 million and RM25 million have been made for tahfiz schools and pondok schools respectively.
He said the government has also improved the administration of Islamic affairs with the introduction of seven clusters, and has also carried out reformation of religious institutions and agencies.
He said the government has expanded Maqasid-based Governance to six ministries and held Maqasid town hall sessions nationwide.
Among other things, Mujahid said the PH government had also committed RM17.8 billion to rehabilitate Tabung Haji.
In response to the Perlis mufti’s claims that the PH government had not heeded his suggestion for inter-faith dialogues to reduce tension among different religious groups, Mujahid said he had already given his commitment and had started the #solidarity4peace initiative through the Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) platform under the Prime Minister’s Department.
“Hopefully, with this platform, I as the chairman together with the unity minister would be able to carry out various programmes this year as planned. Certainly, among others, the programmes that have been planned are Inter-faith Dialogue,” he said.
Mujahid said the PH government is of the view that life involving different religious groups has to be based on peace, not hate or the denigrating of other religions.
“I wish to thank Dr Maza from the bottom of my heart for being willing to criticise us and I as the minister who oversees Islamic religious affairs has the responsibility to explain the situation objectively,” he added.
Following Mohd Asri’s remarks, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently called him “deaf” for not paying attention to the government’s efforts for Muslim welfare and other concerns.
The National Patriots Association (Patriot) yesterday also said Mohd Asri may have been misinformed that Muslims are purportedly being “bullied” under the PH administration, adding that the latter’s recent claims may possibly be driven by misinformation peddled by certain political parties aiming to sow public discord towards the new government.
Patriot highlighted the PH government’s recent bailouts totalling RM24 billion (RM6.3 billion for Felda and RM17.8 billion for Lembaga Tabung Haji) for institutions that benefit Malay-Muslims.
Patriot had also said the issue of Zamri’s arrest is an isolated issue and that investigations are still ongoing.