Okay to task 2 groups to reform Islamic bodies, says don

Constitutional law expert Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi says there is a need for the true spirit of Islam, shariah and civil laws to be enumerated in the new Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: A constitutional law expert says there should be no issue over duplication of roles between Putrajaya’s top advisory council and a similar council announced by the Malay rulers recently. Both groups have been tasked with reforming Islamic institutions.

In fact, emeritus law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Malaya told reporters today he believed there should be more than two committees to spearhead the initiative.

“Some people are asking why there are two committees but there is no harm in this. Both committees have no power to make any decision. They merely make recommendations to the federal government.

“The CEP (Council of Eminent Persons) has appointed a body to do this, and so have the Malay rulers recently. But that is their right. Let’s not make an issue of the fact that we now have two committees for this. Let’s put as many heads together.

“Neither body has any executive, legislative or financial power. Let the government decide and examine the constitutionality of their recommendations,” he said after meeting the CEP at Ilham Tower today.

Shad noted the process would be a long-drawn one, as the Attorney-General’s Chambers would first have to take into account the legal considerations of both councils’ recommendations.

Then, it would have to be debated in both houses of Parliament.

The Conference of Rulers recently agreed to the formation of a new special committee for improving federal Islamic institutions in Malaysia, called the High-level Committee on Federal Institutions of Islamic Affairs.

This came on the back of another committee formed under the purview of the five-member CEP previously, where several prominent Islamic scholars and activists were similarly tasked with drafting a proposal on Islamic reforms.

A source told FMT that a possible clash could take place between the two groups in the near future, as one side or the other might not easily give way over the suggestions.

Moreover, one committee is seen as more powerful than the other as it is directly under the rulers.

Shad said there was a need for the true spirit of Islam, shariah and civil laws to be enumerated in the new Malaysia, as well as the special position of the Federal Constitution.

“This country was built on compromises and compassion. It’s time to walk the middle path of tolerance.”

Over the years, leaders had questioned state Islamic authorities, especially the Malaysian Department of Islamic Affairs (Jakim), over what was perceived as their penchant for imposing a more rigid form of Islam in the country.

These influential government religious officers had also been blamed for a spate of controversial religious rulings as well as the banning of hundreds of books over the years dealing with Islam.

Jakim had also come under the microscope, with leaders from both sides of the political divide calling for it to be dismantled, saying its powers were against the constitutional provision that matters of Islam came under the purview of state rulers.

Prominent novelist Faisal Tehrani agreed with Shad that there was a need for an advisory council to regulate Islamic affairs, whether it was under the rulers or Parliament.

However, the award-winning author, who has seven of his books banned in Malaysia, said there had to be a diverse mix of advisers in the councils, including historians, sociologists, scientists and Islamic experts.

“This is because religion has a lot to do with sociology, anthropology and history. We need all these perspectives in the matter of propagation of one’s religion. Otherwise, we’ll come across as too harsh,” he said after a meeting with the CEP.

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