24 October 2016

Islam in Malaysia: When religion infiltrates the government

WHAT is the role of a religious authority like the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) in the country? How much influence does it wield in Malaysia’s governmental and administrative affairs?

It may seem like the people in Jakim are just old wise men with long beards and a magical staffs who advise the ruler of the country – much like the magician Jaafar did in the Disney movie Aladdin.

In the case of Jaafar, he makes colourful potions and smoke screens to impress the king, using his powers to hide his sinister plans before going on to usurp the ruler’s power.

This analogy struck me when I was watching the 2017 National Budget presentation by the Prime Minister Najib Razak last Friday in Parliament.

.... It has infiltrated it so much that for many Malaysians, expressing any opinion that is just slightly against their accepted interpretation of Islam means that you are an infidel.

They are the be all and end all when it comes to religious knowledge and interpretation. Nobody should question their actions and motives – if you do, you’ll be accused of going against Islam.

For a multi-racial and multi-religious society that is far from homogenous like Malaysia, it is unhealthy and plain wrong when one religious group is allowed to impose their authority on all. [Asian Correspondent] Read more