Politics at play in PM’s empowering of Jakim, says ex-civil servant

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to give the Islamic development department (Jakim) a larger role in policymaking is nothing more than a political gimmick, a former senior civil servant said.

(FMT) – Johan Ariffin Samad, a member of the G25 group of former senior civil servants, believes Anwar’s decision was designed to appease the peninsula’s Muslim community.

“This (proposal) is only for ‘show’, playing to the audience (Muslim community) and to compete with the opposition. This is not good,” Johan told FMT.

Despite its huge budget allocation, he said, Jakim has failed to educate Muslims effectively, resulting in the community labouring under an irrational fear that Islam was under threat in this country.

On Sunday, Anwar announced that Jakim will be asked to provide greater input into government policymaking. He said he wanted the department to help draft a national development policy framework based on the Malaysia Madani concept.

Founded in 1997, Jakim is a federal government agency tasked with administering Islamic affairs.

Former MP Tawfik Ismail said he opposes the proposal to empower Jakim, calling it a “big step backwards” because the department exists outside of the framework set up in the Federal Constitution.

“I do not see any reason why Jakim should be given more power over other departments that already have the mandate to carry out government policy,” said Tawfik.

He said the prime minister’s decision was even more puzzling because under the constitutional framework, religious matters fall under the purview of each state.

The former Sungai Benut MP said the proposal, if implemented, would plunge the administration of Islam into more confusion.

“The state governments already have a mufti and a sultan, who are capable of deciding (on) religious affairs,” he said.

In 2020, G25 said Jakim’s existence was not in line with Article 38 of the constitution because the department does not come under the supervision of the Conference of Rulers.

Over the years, Jakim, which receives an allocation of at least RM1.5 billion a year under the federal budget, has faced criticism on several fronts.

Officers within its ranks have been accused of widespread corruption, and for the arbitrary and heavy-handed manner in which it has carried out the department’s mandate.

In 2020, the department was accused of negligence in a halal meat scandal. Critics had demanded to know how Jakim had for decades been oblivious to the existence of a cartel importing non-halal meat which it passed off as halal.