Mujahid calls for stern action over Ponggal ‘haram’ circular to schools

Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa speaking to reporters after opening the e-RPH online study system for religious schools at the Arumugam Pillai Industrial Training Institute in Nibong Tebal, Penang, today.

NIBONG TEBAL: Minister in charge of Islamic affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa today said stern action must be taken against the education official who issued a circular claiming Ponggal was haram (forbidden) in Islam as advised by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).

He said this was because Jakim had never said it was “haram” to attend the Tamil harvest festival but instead, it had said it was permissible for Muslims to take part in the celebration as long as the Islamic ethics were observed.

“My wife’s a teacher at a school in Nibong Tebal with many Indian students. Her school has been taking part in Ponggal, while observing Islamic ethics for many years,” he said at the sidelines of an event at the Arumugam Pillai Industrial Training Institute here today.

Mujahid questioned the official from the education ministry for distorting the contents of the letter.

“You (the official) used words such as ‘terpaksa’ (forced to) and ‘haram’, come on lah. We said Ponggal is permissible, so long as Islamic ethics are observed.

“We demand stern action on the person who wrote the letter and later blamed Jakim for making the decision. Have some pity on me and Jakim.”

The letter Mujahid was referring to was an education ministry circular issued on the eve of Ponggal to all school heads.

The Jan 13 circular stated that Jakim had declared taking part in Ponggal rituals was “haram”, especially the act of boiling milk, which was the main event of the Tamil harvest festival.

It was written by the ministry’s education and teaching institutions deputy registrar Adzman Talib.

Separately, Mujahid panned the G25, a group of eminent ex-civil servants, for questioning the legality of Jakim and the National Council for Islamic Affairs (MKI).

He said G25’s questioning of Jakim and MKI’s status was akin to questioning the “halal” certification industry, where Malaysia has the lion’s share in a US$2 trillion world “halal” industry.

Mujahid said if what G25 said was true, 30,000 religious school teachers and some one million students under them were receiving payments from an illegitimate body.

He said the group should have kept its findings for an academic debate instead of getting it out in the open as it would leave the public confused.

“The ripple effect of their remarks is untimely, especially at a time where there is tension over race and religion. What are you trying to get at? You are making things worse.”

Earlier, Mujahid launched the e-RPH programme for religious schools, including a mobile phone app for teachers to help them impart quality education for their students. He said the government was looking into increasing the current RM1,000 allowance for religious school teachers by RM100, pending government approval.