JAKIM’s new role completely changes the nexus of government
These bureaucrats purportedly carry with them the weight of Islam behind their advice. Consequently, within the Malaysian political environment, ignoring advice from JAKIM, will be construed to be ignoring the advice of Islam.
The new role given to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) is moving governance away from the principle of representative democracy, towards theocracy. This completely alters the current nexus of government, where the executive through the prime minister and cabinet administrates the government upon specific policies laid out by the cabinet.
Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has given JAKIM a specific role in drafting a national policy framework, based upon Madani principles, with scope to participate in the framing of annual budgeting and developing five-year plans.
The move is a counter to representative democracy
Anwar’s announcement of JAKIM’s role, drastically changes the existing nexus of government, away from the executive, whose members are primarily elected by the people, towards an unelected and unaccountable group of bureaucrats within JAKIM. These bureaucrats purportedly carry with them the weight of Islam behind their advice. Consequently, within the Malaysian political environment, ignoring advice from JAKIM, will be construed to be ignoring the advice of Islam. It would take a very brave prime minister and cabinet to do that. Therefore, advice from JAKIM will become morally binding because it is seen as the obligatory ‘Islamic approach’.
Its not known whether Anwar on making the announcement of JAKIM’s new role was conscious of this consequence, or whether this was purposely planned, or enacted out of some form of deal or request from royal quarters. At the extreme, the new nexus could mean that a small group of Ulama could potentially control government policies.
We must also understand that the advice from JAKIM will come from those primarily schooled in Islamic studies, rather than economics. Thus, one would expect advice will be heavily influenced by the Islamic paradigm, rather secular governance.
Who does JAKIM actually report to?
JAKIM Director General Hakimah Mohd Yusoff has not divulged who or which organization JAKIM is actually responsible to. However, last year the Conference of Rulers, made up of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Sultans and Raja, appointed the Selangor sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah to chair the Majlis Agama Nasional, or the National Religious Council. This new body replaced the Malaysian National Islamic Affairs Council, chaired by the prime minister, thus effectively taking over control of JAKIM.
This move greatly increases the weight of JAKIM, which relies upon Islamic argument, with the backing of the Council of Rulers.
This makes it very difficult for any government of the day to refuse the advice of JAKIM. How could any prime minister make decisions against the purported views of the Islamic body and the monarchy. In effect, the executive government will feel obligated to follow any advice given.
By default, Anwar’s move has redistributed government power back to the monarchy, in a similar fashion the old river-based Malay kingdoms were once governed before Merdeka. This has greatly eroded the power of the elected government of the day. The centre of power in Malaysia has radically shifted. Once this new arrangement comes into operation, there is no way any future government can take this arrangement back.
Malaysia is now less of a democracy than it was before Madani.