At RM810m, is Jakim’s budget bloated? New minister says no

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Putrajaya July 05, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Putrajaya July 05, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, July 7 — Taxpayers will contribute RM810.89 million to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) operating budget this year, but newly-minted religious affairs minister Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa believes this to be justified.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said a “huge amount” of the budget allocation goes into the pockets of imam, or mosque leader, of each state, as well to help finance the running of registered Islamic schools.

“Although the state governments are supposed to do this, they do not have the capacity to bear the costs, so we has to top up,” he told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview, referring to Jakim.

He also denied rumours that Jakim would be disbanded under the Pakatan Harapan government, and stressed that the agency is vital to the smooth running of the current administration.

“Jakim, and its staff members are one of our concerns, and is one of the most important agencies that needs to be reformed.

“It needs a new face with new ideas but everything stays in order to improve. So, the question of doing away with Jakim has not arisen at all,” Mujahid clarified.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a new committee will be formed to evaluate Jakim, to see whether it should remain in its current form or revert to its original purpose.

Formally established as part of the Prime Minister’s Department in 1997, Jakim’s allocation has steadily ballooned from RM582 million in 2011 to between RM700 to RM800 million annually.

But Mujahid was uncertain over the status of the Malaysian Islamic Strategic Research Institute (Iksim), which he said has in the past been used as a political tool to attack political dissenters.

Mujahid himself has been a target, with Iksim chief executive officer Datuk Mahamad Naser Disa labelling him and other then-Opposition politicians as supporters of liberalism, pluralism, and the LGBT.

The Parti Amanah Negara leader said he would consult the Council of Rulers in the future when the time comes for him to decide on Iksim’s fate.

“I am not comfortable when Iksim is used for political attacks. It can stay, or it can even go. If it wants to stay, it has to come to our terms of understanding,” he said.

The think tank was established on December 9, 2014 by Jakim, National Islamic Affairs Council, and state religious authorities with the consent of the Conference of Rulers, and part of its agenda was to oppose secularism, liberalism, and pluralism.

A former director of Iksim was Mujahid’s predecessor Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, and there is a possibility that Mujahid may now be required to fill the former’s shoes.

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