PETALING JAYA: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has earned praise from an opposition figure for telling religious authorities to help the poor instead of catching people who don’t fast during Ramadan.
Former cabinet minister Zaid Ibrahim, now a DAP member, called Khairy a “brave leader” for speaking up on a subject that he said other Muslim leaders seemed to be avoiding.
“He dares say what other Muslim leaders should be saying – that punishing Muslims does not do much good for them. Helping them by relieving their problems is a lot better.”
Zaid told FMT that he believed the best way to help Muslims would be to make them feel responsible for their actions.
He said it was “none of the government’s business” if Muslims chose to eat openly during Ramadan, adding that people should be allowed to serve God willingly and not in fear of the law.
He criticised some state authorities that have made rulings to restrict the food business during Ramadan, saying they should instead encourage fasting Muslims to make money selling cookies and delicacies.
Khairy used the Twitter platform to make the remark that won Zaid’s praise. In an earlier tweet, he said it wasn’t compulsory for authorities to police Muslims to ensure their observance of the five pillars of Islam, including fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Addressing Muslims, he said: “It is obligatory for you to observe the five pillars. It is not compulsory for people to catch you not doing it.”
He said enforcement resources could instead be used to help the poor and needy.
According to a recent Bernama report, the Melaka Islamic Religious Department (Jaim) will carry out daily operations during the month of Ramadan to prevent Muslims in the state from eating, drinking and smoking in public during daylight hours.
JAIM enforcement division operations unit chief Noraminuddin Aziz said Muslims found eating, drinking and smoking in public places could be prosecuted under a state enactment. They face a maximum fine of RM1,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both.
Kota Raja MP Siti Mariah Mahmud has also commented on Khairy’s tweets. She said it might not be wise for Khairy to suggest that no action be taken against Muslims who eat or drink in public during Ramadan.
“If any Muslim doesn’t want to fast, that is his or her business, but society has accepted that eating in public is a show of disrespect,” she told FMT.
She said the work of the enforcement wing in any religious department was to enforce Islamic law. The responsibility of helping the poor should be left to NGOs, political parties and other groups, she added.
“There will an uproar if the enforcers of the law also help the poor. They have their enforcement duty to do.”
Siti Mariah, who heads Parti Amanah Negara’s women’s wing, urged enforcement authorities to educate errant Muslims on the importance of abstaining from eating in public during the fasting month.
“Give them booklets on why they should fast,” she said. “We should not undo what is accepted by the people. It used to be quite common to see Muslims eating in public areas during Ramadan, but it is no longer so.”