Saturday, December 30, 2006

Grand mufti idea not viable, say Najib and State Muftis

According the NSTOnline on 30 Dec 2006, [the] Grand mufti idea [is] not viable, says Najib.

Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) director-general, Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, was reported on Thursday in an English daily to have said Malaysia needed a grand mufti to prevent the teachings of the religion from being distorted. The person could be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who is the head of Islam in the country.

An authoritative figure was needed to unite differing views among religious scholars on certain issues which caused confusion among believers, he added. A grand mufti would also ensure that religious enforcement agencies played a proper role in developing the faith of believers.
Sounds like a good idea, yes? It would get rid of all those disparate, local interpretations of religion & morality by the state authorities, local councils etc. Things might not necessarily liberalise if a Grand Mufti was appointed, on the contrary it might just get a lot worse. But at least, it would be a result of a consistent, nation-wide policy. At least the govt will no longer be able to use the "one bad apple doesn't mean the whole cart stinks" and "this independent action does not reflect the policy of the govt" excuses every time JAIS or MAIS or a far-flung Mufti or some local council suddenly goes Taliban.
"It will be difficult. It won’t be possible to implement this suggestion, based on what we have in our Constitution. The exclusive right to decide on Islam is with the ruler of each state," Najib said when asked to comment on the proposal for a grand mufti...

Malaysia cannot have a grand mufti as the Federal Constitution does not allow for one, the deputy prime minister said.
Well, we used to think the same thing about a couple of other things enshrined in the Federal Constitution, but the govt had no trouble changing it, even though the Constitution certainly did not allow for it.

For instance, how the explicit pre-eminence of the Civil Court was supplanted overnight by the raising of a religious court's stature. And how the protection of the special rights of bumiputeras and the status of Islam as the religion of the country, has been transmogrified to erode the basic Constitutional guarantee to freedom from discrimination based on race or religion.

So, don't tell us that the Federal Constitution is immutable or that it does not close one eye.
The proposal has so far drawn flak from Perak mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, who felt that a grand mufti would challenge the powers of state rulers in deciding matters of religion.
Ah.... the veritable Perak mufti again. Why did I get the feeling he would pop up somewhere in this whole issue?

Uncle, the grand mufti challenges the powers of the state muftis [ie. YOU lah], not the rulers.

State rulers don't usually go around making religious proclamations that are at odds with those of their brother rulers in other states nor with those of the King in the Federal Territories. To date, that's solely the purview of over-zealous state bureaucrats, not unlike yourself. In fact, I think the rulers see the value of streamlining religious affairs across the nation.

The grand mufti can be appointed by the King and directed by the Conference of Rulers, where all state rulers sit as equals. And each state will be in a position to appoint the grand mufti as they ascend the throne of the Yang DiPertuan Agung in turn. In fact, any permutation of arrangements can be designed to ensure that the state rulers lose none of their power and gain prestige as their wisdom in supporting the national streamlining of religious administration becomes apparent. The dignity and influence of the state rulers are not necessarily incompatible with better national religious management.

Any arrangement of a grand mufti however, is greatly incompatible with the continued power and influence of state muftis. The role and powers of the state mufti will diminish considerably as they become implementors of national policy, rather than promulgators of state policy.

So, might it be your powers as state mufti that you're worried about, rather than the powers of the state rulers?

Have a read of Marina Mahathir's view on this grand mufti proposal. She highlights some points which I completely overlooked, like how the most senior state mufti ie. mufti of Perak, whom I just bashed a 'lil bit in the preceding paragraphs, will most probably be named the first grand mufti if that eventuates.

A good viewpoint on how an all powerful grand mufti might actually serve to consolidate religious conservatism and be too powerful for the secular govt to comfortably cross swords with - although it doesn't seem too likely to me, that the govt will allow an uncooperative grand mufti to come about.

Hmmmm, stepping back on hindsight, sounds like it might be better to divide and conquer than to have them unite under a single banner.

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