Imam Munafiq and Fasik

Raja Petra Kamarudin

I was the Chairman of the Kolam Mosque (Masjid Kolam, Kuala Ibai, Kuala Terengganu) for about 20 years from the 1970s. That was about the time Ustaz Haji Abdul Hadi Awang first came back from the Middle East.

Some time around the early 1980s, the Terengganu Religious Department summoned me to their office and informed me they were replacing the imam and bilal of our mosque. They had already selected the new candidates concerned and were putting them on the government payroll.

The reason our imam and bilal were being replaced is because our mosque does not read the kutbah (sermon) distributed by the religious department but instead the one circulated by Haji Abdul Hadi. We were then, just like the Chendering Mosque, Batu Enam Mosque, and so on, part of the Rusila Mosque network.

There was no way we could object so we agreed to the appointment of the new imam and bilal, incidentally, committee members of the local Umno branch. Six months on and we still never saw the faces of the new imam and bilal. After we could stand it no longer, I wrote to the Terengganu Religious Department informing them we are sacking their appointees and reappointing those who had been serving the mosque all those years, including during the six months we never saw the new imam and bilal. And they had been serving the mosque free, mind you, without the benefit of any salary.

The following week, just before Friday prayers, the Terengganu Religious Department brought the new imam and bilal to our mosque escorted by two truck loads of riot police. The congregation was outraged. They all stood up and walked out of the mosque. They would rather pray in the neighbouring mosque then suffer humiliation by the Terengganu Religious Department. That day, no Friday prayers were held in our mosque.

This episode 20 years ago was not the first of its kind. Many other mosques all over Malaysia have been subjected to the same thing. And it is still going on till today. Recently, in Selangor, many mosques were brought under ‘government control’ — the Subang Jaya, Subang Airport, Damansara Jaya and Sungai Buloh mosques included.

The excuse for the Selangor Religious Department grabbing control of these mosques is that these mosques have been infiltrated by the opposition and that the imams refuse to read the government issued sermon. In fact, the closing down of the Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR: peoples’ religious schools) is for the same reason and a couple of days ago the government announced that there are no longer any SARs which spread ‘hate the government’ messages.

That is the issue, the so-called ‘hate the government’ message in which these mosques and schools are alleged to be preaching. That is why the government wishes to close down or control mosques and religious schools perceived as opposition strongholds.

Instead of the ‘hate Umno, hate Barisan Nasional, hate corrupt government ministers, hate dictators’ sermon, the Religious Department would rather the imam read the sermon propagating hatred of the Jews, the Zionist, the West, the United States, the invaders of Bahgdad, the Thai Buddhists in Pattani, the ‘enemies’ of Islam, and so on.

Now, if the Religious Department, the State Mufti (sort of Pope), and the imams are all sincere in their intentions, then I suppose their hate the United States, the West, the Jews, the Zionist, the enemies of Islam, etc., message would be quite acceptable. But these religious department officials, the Mufti and Imams are not exactly noble themselves.

I have personally seen the Terengganu Mufti and the Grand Imam (Imam Besar) attend a Hari Raya open house of one of the Terengganu ‘big shots’ where liquor was being served and a small group of Muslims were boisterously getting drunk in a corner of the house. The Mufti and Grand Imam just watched and did nothing.

Just an hour or two before that they had delivered a sermon telling Muslims to hate everything unIslamic and be very careful of the West as it is trying to mislead (sesat) the Muslims. Muslims should not ape the West and should not celebrate Hari Raya the way the West celebrates Christmas; with maksiat (sin) such as liquor.

It was very impressive watching the government appointed and salaried imams standing at the pulpit screaming their lungs out and ‘educating’ the congregation about vices and virtues in Islam — then, an hour or so later, they watch quietly as the upper crust of society celebrates Hari Raya with free-flowing liquor.

And that was in Kuala Terengganu mind you. But the same happens in the big city as well. I have met no less than two contractors who undertake cleaning and maintenance work at Masjid Negara (Nasional Mosque) who complained they have to pay the imam and bilal kickbacks for contacts awarded to their companies. One even showed me the contract document and allege that the ex-Masjid Negara Grand Imam who stood for elections in Permatang Pauh personally asked him for RM40,000 as commission for a two-year cleaning contract in late 2003.

Another friend of mine, an insurance agent called Baharudin Dato Yusof, related how he handled all the insurance business for the Terengganu Religious Department and had to jack up the premium 10% so that he could cover the religious department officers the 10% commission they were asking for.

The Religious Department is also trustee to much land that was donated to it under Baitulmal. The intention of the donors is for this land to be used to build places of worship. One such prime land in Kuala Terengganu was instead used for a supermarket, and from donations collected from the public on top of that. In fact, the headquarters of the Terengganu Religious Department was build with zakat money and the contract to build the building was not tendered out and awarded to the lowest builder as procedure dictates, but was instead awarded on a ‘negotiated without tender’ basis to Zaki, the Treasurer of Umno Kemaman.

Yes, the religious departments and mosques seem to be infested with crooks and scoundrels who are corrupted to the core and who prohibit us from listening to sermons about corrupt government officers and leaders but would rather we hear sermons about the evil Americans, Jews, Zionsts and Westerners. I would rather hear about the evil back home first, in our own mosques, rather than hear about some episode halfway around the world in Palestine or Iraq.

As they say, charity starts at home. Before we worry about cleaning up Palestine, Pattani or Baghdad, why not we clean up the filth in our own backyard first, our religious departments and mosques?