PAS fumes over Penang’s vow to close unsafe tahfiz schools


GEORGE TOWN: A Penang PAS leader has branded the vow of a state government official to close all unsafe tahfiz schools in Penang as a threat to the tahfiz institution.

Penang PAS information chief Mohd Yusni Mat Piah added that state religious affairs committee chairman Abdul Malik Abul Kassim’s statement on tahfiz schools was unacceptable.

This was after Malik vowed on Sept 14 that strict action would be taken against tahfiz schools that ignored safety protocol, including cancelling their permits and closing down the centres.

Malik’s statement followed a fire at a tahfiz school in Kuala Lumpur which resulted in the deaths of 23 people.

Such schools come under the purview of the respective state governments.

Yusni said Malik’s statement showed that the DAP-led Penang government was intent on stifling Islamic development in the state.

“His behaviour is so naive and uncivilised for someone who is holding a big post in the state leadership.

“In fact, it clearly shows his dengki (malicious) behaviour and opposition to matters related to Islam by the DAP-led Penang government,” Yusni said in a statement yesterday.

Instead of threatening to close tahfiz schools, Yusni said the Penang government should consider supporting them financially as many of the centres rely on donations.

He added that the Penang government should look to the Kelantan government as an example of “a well-governed state” which was also “good at managing religious schools”.

No plans to close tahfiz schools, laws on religious schools to be beefed up

At a separate press conference before PAS’ statement was issued yesterday, Malik said the state government had no plans to close down tahfiz schools, and was merely advising operators to follow the law.

“Our mission here is to help these schools reach the highest safety standards possible. We will engage these operators to rectify problems as they occur,” he said.

Malik said there would be “no compromise” on tahfiz operators who ignored safety standards if they refused to heed the advice given.

Currently, he said, there were 67 tahfiz schools in the state including 20 unregistered centres.

Malik said the Penang government would also consider beefing up existing state laws to punish tahfiz school operators that flouted basic safety and building laws.

He said with the powers vested under the Control of Islamic Religious Schools Enactment (Penang) 1989, it currently had the authority to deregister schools which were found to be unsafe.

Malik said he was also shocked to hear that some tahfiz schools invited to attend fire safety programmes by the fire department did not show much interest.

He gave the example of a two-day programme held at the Perai fire station on Aug 8 and 9, which was only attended by 25 tahfiz schools although 50 had been invited.

Likewise, a northern region programme held by the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) in Alor Setar on Sept 13 and 14 was only attended by 18 of the 36 schools that had been invited.

When asked about PAS’ latest comments, Malik said he would respond to them soon.