First in the world with Islamic Index

Lim Teck Ghee

Lim Teck Ghee

It looks like the Prime Minister is not fiddling while the country burns or is he?

He seems to be fiddling a variation of an old tune which he hopes will save the nation.

On March 28, PM Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak will table the Malaysian Syariah Index report which tracks the implementation of the Islamic agenda and the level of syariah-compliance. Syariah requirements will be applied, that is, enforced towards the protection of the religion, protection of life, protection of the mind, protection of the race and protection of property.

Initial reports had indicated that the index would be applied to only certain areas of life. However it now appears that it will assess requirements in legal, politics, economy, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and social. This looks like virtually all aspects of life in the country will be subject to the requirements of Islamic religious standards.

According to the committee of politicians, bureaucrats, academicians and religious experts engaged in formulating the index this is the first such index in the world.

Many are not aware of the enormous difficulties and challenges faced by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) which, in collaboration with the International Islamic University of Malaysia and the Islamic Missionary Foundation, developed this scientific and all encompassing index.

Recently the Sultan of Johor was reported to have said that he did not understand why Jakim needed nearly RM1 billion a year in allocations. A month earlier, deputy minister, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki had said the 2016 budget was not enough for the federal religious agency.

Jakim has been very reticent on disclosing how its budget has been spent. But we can have no doubt that a fair chunk of its policy oriented budget – RM10 million or more? – has gone towards this pioneering effort which has involved possibly the largest number of local researchers engaged in a single project in the country’s history.

Tax payers in the country who are always complaining about government extravagance should be especially appreciative that their contributions in this scholarly scientific work are being used to pave the way for their smoother passage through the pearly gates of heaven and to avoid the fires of hell.

Also important to bear in mind is that innovation (and halal certificates) do not come easy or cheap.

Some are of the opinion that the index alone has definitely put Malaysia in the Guinness Book of Record. It should also land us in the forefront of religiously governed countries in the world, that is, if we are not already there.

Once the index is implemented, Muslims in the country will become the most religiously and scientifically monitored, and presumably also most religiously compliant society, in the world.

How Malaysia’s Muslims will view the Index

But in actual fact, it is difficult to know what Malaysian Muslims are thinking of, and how they will respond to this index, especially since it seeks to measure and to protect their minds, race (is there a Muslim race?) property and life itself from temptation, enticement, and all other kinds of pollution and evil surrounding them.

There have been a few voices of concern and dissent. But the country’s Islamic power elite and intelligentsia that hold the strings of power and monopolize the media have dismissed them as coming from unrepresentative, liberal, secularized, western value-compromised and morally bankrupt slivers of our society that are traitors to the religion and race.

As for the non-Muslims, they have kept a deafening silence which is increasingly their response to the waves of Islamization coming to our shores. For now, Umno’s partners in the Barisan will be reassured by the Prime Minister’s view that the proposed index is good for them.

In his keynote address on 10 February 2015 during the launch ceremony of the index held at Putrajaya, Najib noted that “if we together accept the values of discipline, trust, justice, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency as universal values, then we will accept the two functions of the Malaysian Shariah Index that I mentioned just now.”

The non-Muslims and possible critics?

Given the widely held view among Umno ministers that non-Muslims, especially Chinese, are prone to practicing the antithesis of the values the Prime Minister has identified, the Barisan component party leaders will surely be grateful to Najib for stopping the rot that is taking place in non-Muslim society; and bringing non-Muslims up to syariah compliant standards.

After all, as the Prime Minister also noted, non-Muslims have readily accepted Islamic banking and halal certification. Islamic trolleys may be a bit difficult to accept by ordinary Malaysians but surely there should be a warm welcome extended to Islamic standards in law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and in the social spheres.

A critic of this historic breakthrough in social indicator work hitherto dominated by western trained social scientists has lamented that two key areas that have been in the news recently have been inadvertently left out by the distinguished panel of experts developing this measure. He was referring to the subject area of terrorism and corruption.

He is wrong. Inside sources have leaked that besides deviants, perverts, gays, lesbians, and other similar “scum” of Islamic society, the index is targeted at IS types such as suicide bombers, militants and other extremists. However this targeting is of a different kind as it is not the intention to physically identify or eliminate these extremist groups.

Instead, the index is a subtle strategy aimed at discouraging them from launching their acts of terrorism in Malaysia since they will be aware of the great effort that the Government is putting into ensuring that our economy and society meets the highest Islamic standards. This, in addition to the finding that Malaysians have abnormally high levels of sympathy for the IS terrorist group, virtually amounts to a double insurance policy against the occurrence of the genre of religious terrorism found in other countries.

As to the issue of corruption, the last word should go to the Prime Minister whose name will forever be associated with the index, besides the unfortunate and unnecessarily publicised episode of the political donation into his personal account.

Speaking at the appreciation ceremony held for the 133 researchers from five local universities that made up the index research team, he argued that “[w]e cannot jump to conclusions based only on the general point of view. Sometimes, our views are influenced by our own personal experience. Maybe because the matter was not labelled as Islamic, or it was being influenced by political consideration, that had caused our conclusions to stray from the reality.”

Those adapt at deciphering garbled political language have concluded that what the PM is saying is that the issue of “corruption” should not be part of the index.