As citizens of a democracy, all Malaysians have a constitutional right to speak up on religious issues if they are to be made public policy or law, pro-moderation group G25 said today.
The Malay group comprising mostly of former high-ranking civil servants was responding to an August 1 letter written by Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) assistant director Akhrun Musa who rebuked G25 representatives for commenting on Islamic issues when they were not an authority on the subject.
The group admitted that it was not an “expert” on Islam, but said all the experts and scholars, including the muftis, “should expect that in a democracy, the moment there is a proposal to enact a law affecting the lives of the people, the matter goes into the realm of public policy”.
“When it’s a matter of public interest, all citizens have the right to participate in the discussion whether the religious proposal is good or bad for society,” the G25 secretariat said in a statement to Malay Mail Online.
The group emphasised that while their Islamic knowledge may not compare to the theologians, their combined experience had also equipped them with knowledge about the Federal Constitution — the country’s supreme law — and what it says on the implementation of religion in the Malaysian legal system.
“Our role is to promote moderation in the administration of Islam, with justice for all, as envisaged in the Constitution,” the group said.
G25 added that this was the reason why its representatives had been vocal on Islamic issues, including the controversial implementation of hudud as proposed in Parliament by PAS.
It also pointed out that the Jakim official’s letter neglected any mention of the Constitution, which G25 said gave the impression its author has forgotten or was unaware of Malaysia’s status as a constitutional democracy, with Islam as its official religion.
As such, the group reminded Jakim that the country’s supreme law was designed with checks and balances to ensure that no federal or state authority has absolute authority in governing the country.
“Any law passed by parliament or any state legislature that contravenes the constitutional rights of citizens can be challenged in court and declared invalid,” G25 stressed.
In his open letter to G25, the Jakim official accused the group he categorised as “liberals” of issuing statements that were not supported by religious scholars and deviated from Islamic teachings.
“What the liberals such as the G25 have done to this country is not merely denying the authority of true Muslim scholars, but to also confer authority upon themselves, or other liberal ‘scholars’ of their choice,” Akhrun wrote in his letter.
The Malay Mail Online