Is JAKIM being groomed to become the sole interpreter of Islam?

The final step in institutionalizing Islam

Murray Hunter

With open discussion in Malaysia now veiled with a taboo in any discussion of the 3Rs (race, religion, and royalty), prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s comment to the monthly staff meeting at the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) raises a major concern.

Anwar stated that he will continue citing Quranic verses in his future speeches only after consulting with the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) to ‘avoid controversy’.

This implies there is only one official interpretation of a Quaranic verse, and only JAKIM has the authority to provide such an interpretation.

Those who have read Quranic verses a number of times will know that each time it is read, different meanings can be unveiled. Quranic verses and the Quran itself are full of layers of meaning. Thus, a reader can pick up new meanings upon each reading.

This is one of the reasons the Quran is a very rich book of the truth.

The move to restrict the interpretation of the Quran to JAKIM is allowing only one-dimension of the Quran to serve as the official meaning. Thus, insights made by wise Islamic scholars can potentially be forbidden in Malaysia, although these views may be accepted everywhere else within the Islamic world.

In addition, states like Perlis practice Ahli Sunah Wal Jamaah interpretation of Islam, which differs from the other states. This may contradict JAKIM’s interpretation from time to time. This could have constitutional implications, as Islam is a state responsibility in Malaysia.

Much of the preaching of Islam with views digressing from JAKIM’s interpretations is now on social media. JAKIM and the MCMC have now teamed up to censor online-preachers.

Such a move towards JAKIM becoming the sole interpreter of Islam in Malaysia is a direct attack upon Article 11 of the Constitution, which states “Everyone has the right to profess and practice his religion and to propagate it.” This will hinder the future of Islamic scholarship in Malaysia and may even lead to a brain drain of Islamic scholars, who disagree with the state narratives.

Malaysia is already one of the only countries in the world, where Muslims are not allowed to preach or discuss Islam in public forums, without a license from state authorities. Failure to do so is a crime under Syariah Law and can result in jail for up to 3 years and a RM 3,000 fine. Several Islamic scholars following Ahli Sunah Wal Jamaah have been prohibited and arrested for speaking outside Perlis. Likewise, Selangor and Terengganu have prohibited the Perlis Mufti Mohd Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin from preaching because of differing viewpoints.

Thus, the authorities are carefully resisting the diversity of Islam in the nation.

Islam is a very diverse religion and this richness should be appreciated by the authorities. Nobody wants to see the persecution of religion in Malaysia, especially those who may differ in their opinion to JAKIM.