PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today defended the establishment of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) during his time, saying it was aimed at bringing the government in line with Islamic teachings.
The former prime minister denied an accusation by his one-time rival in Umno, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah that the department was a tool for Umno to neutralise PAS’s influence among Malay Muslims.
“We didn’t measure Islam based on PAS. We didn’t do it because of PAS,” Mahathir told repoters at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here.
“We wanted to bring the country closer to Islamic teachings so that what we are not in contradiction to Islamic teachings,” he said.
Jakim was formally established as part of the Prime Minister’s Department in 1997. Among its responsibilities is to determine the halal validity of products from the consumer food sector, which is worth billions of ringgit.
But the body has come under intense criticism, including from critics who questioned its huge budget.
Speaking to FMT recently, Razaleigh said Jakim was a result of Umno’s attempt to out-Islamise PAS.
“So he went on with his Islamic programmes, setting up Jakim, for instance.
“Jakim is unconstitutional,” the former finance minister said.
Mahathir today refused to say whether Jakim was still relevant, but said a Pakatan Harapan government could reevaluate the need for such a department.
“If we win, we will see if it is still needed. Nothing is permanent,” he added.