What’s the point of Jakim unit to monitor online insults, asks ex-MP

Kompleks Islam in Putrajaya, which houses Islamic agencies including the Malaysian Islamic Development Department. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A former MP has questioned the point of setting up a unit under the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to monitor for online insults to Islam, saying there are already other agencies equipped to do this.

Tawfik Ismail, who has advocated the dissolution of the department, said the police and officials from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission are able to monitor and act against wrongdoings involving religious issues.

He also asked how Jakim would draw the line between constructive and offensive comments on Islam.

“Making Jakim like an ‘intelligence agency’ is not wise because they may seize this opportunity to stamp out any discussion on Islam that they deem insulting,” the former Sungai Benut MP said.

The unit under Jakim was announced earlier today by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa. It was set up after several cases involving the arrest of individuals who allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad on their social media.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir said the authorities should take a more moderate approach when dealing with online comments.

“Online discussions go back and forth,” he said. “Not everyone agrees with what a person says online. The authorities should take a sensible approach to dealing with them.”

He added that state religious bodies could face limitations in taking action against individuals who allegedly insult Islam.

“For example, under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997, there is a provision that allows the authorities to take action against people who are said to have insulted Islam.

“But there are limitations to this, especially in terms of geography,” he said, explaining that Federal Territories shariah laws only apply to Muslims residing in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.