‘Ignorant MPs’ behind Jakim’s rise, says electoral reformer

The Islamic development department Jakim has become more influential than it should be as a result of MPs not being well versed in the federal constitution, says a leader of an independent electoral movement.

(FMT) – Tawfik Ismail, a former MP from Umno, said Jakim’s overreach today was because it had become a political tool of conservative politicians.

“The religious affairs minister, who is in charge of Jakim, does not have much power at all under the constitution,” said Tawfik at a forum of three members of the Gerak movement, hosted by former diplomat Dennis Ignatius. “They do not have any powers at all. I think we are making something grand of something that should not exist at all.”

He said the constitution is very clear that Malaysia is not an Islamic country in its character. The constitution was written and adopted by people who believe in the principles of Islam, “but not in the fact that Islam should be an overreaching ideology on the people”.

“However, politicians twisted it around to make Jakim more powerful than it should be,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it does not have constitutional powers at all,” as Islamic matters came under the purview of the Sultans and Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Tawfik took a swipe at PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang for not having consulted the Conference of Rulers before attempting to increase the criminal jurisdiction of shariah courts, and Kota Bahru MP Takiyuddin Hassan for seconding the bill without realising the need to consult the Rulers.

He said “something is definitely wrong” when MPs are not well-versed in the federal constitution, as they are the ones who deal with legislation. “I think this is where the reforms have to start.”

Tawfik is the son of Malaysia’s second deputy prime minister, Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, and is well known as a staunch critic of Jakim.