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Umno against qariah polls in Penang

 | June 13, 2011

Elections would do more damage than good to the existing musyawarah way of choosing mosque committees, says top leader.

GEORGE TOWN: Umno is against the state government’s decision to hold elections to choose mosque qariah committees which is scheduled to start from Saturday until June 24.

Penang Umno chief Zainal Abidin Osman said that the elections initiated by the Pakatan Rakyat state government would split the Muslim community at all levels.

“It would split them along political, gender and age lines,” he said during a Barisan Nasional press conference at its state headquarters in Bayan Baru here today.

He said attempts to politicise qariah operations would intensify rivalry and fierce infighting would be the rule of the day.

He claimed that qariah elections were unwarranted and would do more damage than good to the existing musyawarah way of choosing mosque committees.

“Umno is against bringing politics to mosques. Mosques are exclusively for Muslims to fulfil their various religious duties, not politics and politicking,” said Zainal.

Penang Umno has submitted an appeal to the head of Penang Islamic religious affairs and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin to intervene and revise the decision to hold elections to choose qariah committee leaders.

The appeal letter was submitted last week to the King through Minister in the Prime Minister Department in charge of Religious Affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom.

The qariah polls initiated by state executive councillor in charge of religious affairs, Abdul Malik Kassim, would involve hundreds of mosques and thousands of Muslims in Penang.

Zainal called on the state government to call off the qariah polls, demanding an explanation on the need for such an election to choose mosque committees.

Since independence, he said qariah committee leaders were always chosen through musyawarah (discussions) to avoid politicking and split in the community.

The existing system has been able to group locals from various political and socio-economic backgrounds, and gender and age groups under one roof of Muslim brotherhood.

“The existing system embraces all Muslims, be it from Umno, PAS or PKR under one family… However, an election could pit friends and relatives against each other.

“Victorious and defeated people would be facing each with sour faces when they come to mosques to pray,” said Zainal, who is also the BN state deputy chairman.

‘Existing system effective and efficient’

Zainal said that the democratic system preached by the state government may not produce proportionate local representation.

Currently, he said the larger village would have a mosque to care to the interests of several smaller suraus and villages as well.

He said representatives from these smaller suraus and villages have always been represented in qariahs. Elections would produce lopsided results dominated by bigger villages.

This, he said, would leave the interest of smaller suraus and villages being unrepresented and neglected.

He added that the ballot system would definitely split Muslims on political grounds, too.

He said it would also open the way to some errant non-pious Muslims to stand for elections and take control of qariahs merely to handle mosque funds.

Moreover, he said the state government has not been clear and transparent on the balloting process, especially on the respective mosque voters’ list.

“The existing system to choose qariah composition has been effective and efficient. An electoral system may not be fair and just to all Muslims and villages. It could trigger unwanted problems. Why do we need to change it?

“Penang Umno hopes that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would make a swift decision soon to halt this unwarranted electoral process,” said Zainal.


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