Cenbet fanning racial and religious tension with EPF scheme remarks — Young Professionals

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JUNE 23 — The Young Professionals (YP) are surprised and outraged to read the reaction of the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) to the move by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to introduce a shariah contribution scheme alongside the conventional contribution scheme. (Shariah scheme could spark interfaith friction, EPF warned, The Malay Mail Online, 23 June 2016).

According to them, the move could spark dissention between contributors who are Muslims and minorities of other faiths as a parallel scheme would create situations that may be perceived to be unjust as dividends would differ from time to time and thus take a racial-religious dimension.

What a ludicrous claim to make! Shariah compliant saving schemes are nothing new, and are part and parcel of Islamic banking and finance, which has gained wide acceptance not only among Muslims, but also non-Muslims.

Their existence is not only confined to Malaysia but also around the world, including in non-Muslim jurisdictions such as Singapore and the United Kingdom. Almost all banks and financial institutions in Malaysia and abroad provide such services not only to their Muslim clientele but their non-Muslim counterparts, as well, with everyone free to choose between the two. HSBC and OCBC, for example, offer Shariah compliant savings accounts vide their Amanah and Al-Amin Islamic subsidiaries, although both are conventional financial institutions.

This is widely known by everyone, Cenbet most certainly included, yet it has the temerity to claim that this long standing practice is unjust as it somehow promotes differentiation. What nonsense!

We also note that the EPF has not placed any restrictions on who may participate in the Shariah saving scheme, which presumably opens the door to non-Muslims to opt for the scheme, should they wish to do so.

Even if EPF’s Shariah scheme were to be limited to Muslims, this would be no different from how Permodalan Nasional Berhad’s (PNB) Amanah Saham Bumiputra (ASB) scheme is limited to Bumiputras only, with different dividend rates for ASB as opposed to PNB’s other investment schemes open to all Malaysians. This has also never been made an issue before. So the question is, why now?

Further, Cenbet has the audacity to say that the division of investments into those that are halal as opposed to non-halal is unhealthy as it creates negative perceptions. The fact is, any investment into activities that are not permitted by Islam is non-halal and is not allowed.

This is a cardinal rule of Islamic finance, and again, this is known and accepted by most all who chose to invest in Shariah complaint products, Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

YP notes that the statement of Cenbet in relation to the EPF Shariah savings scheme represents the first known instance of an attack on the operation of Islamic banking and finance in Malaysia undertaken in the guise of promoting racial and religious harmony.

This could thus signal the beginning of a worrying trend of demonising the ways of life of a particular religious community due to their decision to invest their assets in a way that complies with the requirements of their faith.

There could theoretically be further calls down the road to disallow Islamic banking and finance from further operating based on the preposterous notion that they are not conducive to race relations as well being a direct result of Cenbet’s highly irresponsible statement mentioned above.

YP believes that such a situation, rendered all the more likely at present, would be extremely dangerous, volatile and have a corrosive effect on intercommunal relations. We plead that Malaysians reject this call, should it occur, by denouncing Cenbet’s actions in the issuance of the abovementioned statement.

YP further strongly believes that Cenbet’s statement on the EPF’s Shariah savings scheme is

nothing short of opprobrious, and urges that the same must immediately be investigated by the relevant authorities for fanning racial and religious tension.

YP reminds Cenbet that inciting racial and religious tension or saying anything that may lead to tension between different racial and religious communities is an offence under relevant provisions of the Penal Code as well as the Sedition Act 1948, among other laws.

YP thus urges Cenbet to immediately withdraw the offending statement against the EPF Shariah savings scheme, and issue an immediate apology in respect thereof.

* Young Professionals (YP) are a group of Malaysian professionals from across the social strata and political spectrum who believe in the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and social contract.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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