PETALING JAYA: The constitutionality of the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) is something which needs to be studied in depth, says G25 group spokesman Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin (pic).
Stressing that she was speaking in her own capacity, Farida told The Star that Jakim, a public institution run on public money, should be open to criticism from the public.
"It is wrong to stifle the rights of the people who highlight concerns which are of public interest. A cardinal principle we should follow is that those who hold positions in public office must be subject to great degrees of monitoring and scrutiny.
"We would also like to see Jakim's budget and have their spending audited to see how the taxpayers' money is being spent," she said Tuesday.
She added that Tawfik Ismail, the son of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and a member of G25, had made a valid point when questioning the existence of Jakim.
"I am not agreeing or disagreeing with him, but what I can say is that his questions merit an in-depth study on the matter.
"We need to examine the constitutionality of Jakim under the federal constitution as Jakim is a federal department. This is something even many constitutional lawyers have been questioning," she said, adding that it should be looked into if the portfolio of the Religious Affairs Minister was constitutional.
Farida also said that Malaysia should stop becoming a police state.
"Institutions like Jakim do not like public criticism against them, and the Sedition Act is being used on the public criticising them.
"We are wasting the time of the police every time, in asking for investigations under the Sedition Act against the person making the criticism. Basically, the Sedition Act is being abused and it is getting more and more absurd," she said.
She also questioned the authority of Jakim to arrest someone from a different state.
"Look at the arrest of academician Kassim Ahmad in 2014. He claimed that the hadith is part of the Islamic teaching and I personally do not subscribe to anti-hHadith movements.
"But what bothers me more is that Jakim went all the way to another state to arrest an 80-year old man. This is abuse, as Jakim is a federal institution, so what authority do they have to carry out that arrest," she said.
Farida then quoted American broadcast journalist Edward Marrow and said "a nation of sheep would soon have a government of wolves".
"If the rakyat is not allowed to question public institutions, then is this a democracy or a police state? if it the former then the views are contrary," she added.
Tawfik is currently facing a probe under the Sedition Act for his remarks that Jakim should be abolished.
He had made the remark earlier this month, claiming that Jakim which was created during the time of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, served no other purpose than to intervene in the personal lives of Malaysians.
Noor Farida: Jakim’s validity needs to be studied in depth