KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Maszlee Malik appointed at least 26 university officials with Islamist leanings and who were aligned with him and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin prior to his resignation as education minister, a news portal has alleged.
Asia Sentinel reported that an unnamed former vice-chancellor provided a list of appointees said to be aligned to the two figures.
“According to a former vice-chancellor who pointed out a list of at least 26 newly appointed vice chancellors and deputy vice chancellors, these appointments were not made on merit but rather on the basis of loyalty to Maszlee and Salafi preacher and Perlis Mufti – Muslim legal expert — Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin,” the report said.
The Salafi movement is seen as revivalist crusade within Sunni Islam that emerged in Egypt in the late 19th century as a response to Western European imperialism.
Maszlee abruptly resigned as education minister on January 2. Speculation followed that the Simpang Renggam MP was forced out over a slew of issues, including the allegation of active proselytisation.
He has also been linked to Ikram, said to be a Muslim evangelist group.
The Asia Sentinel report claimed Maszlee would have made more of such appointments had he remained in the post. The portal quoted the former vice-chancellor as saying that Ikram members would have dominated the list. It also claimed Salafists have infiltrated Ikram.
“Although Ikram has a respectable reputation within the Malaysian community, the leadership has been infiltrated by Salafi sympathisers pushing fringe ideas of Islam,” the portal said.
Maszlee did not deny links with Ikram but dismissed claims he was carrying out the group’s agenda. The former education minister also insisted that he is committed to diversity amid allegations of proselytisation.
But Asia Sentinel reported that Maszlee’s tenure was marked by an “insular outlook to education” and “dedicated to implementing an agenda that would hinder any diverse outlook from educational perspectives.”
The portal cited the controversy surrounding Universiti Malaysia Perlis Vice-Chancellor, Ahmad Badlishah, over the controversial exam questions that caused outrage and calls for his resignation across the nation.
“The multiple-choice question in the university’s Ethnic Relations paper claimed Zakir Naik, a controversial Islamic preacher and fugitive from India on charges of money laundering, is an Islamic icon and spreading true Islam,” the portal noted.
Maszlee also appointed Mohd Saleh Jaafar deputy director-general of Higher Education (Private Institution) and Gauth Jasmon as chairman of the Universiti Putra Malaysia Board of Directors, the report said.
All were reported as loyal to the Ikram leadership.