MALAYSIA’S Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the country’s finance minister, last week tabled the 2018 national Budget.
It is a bigger budget in terms of allocation of money, increasing from RM260 billion in 2017 to RM280 billion for 2018.
It’s all well and good if money is allocated to the right areas and managed well. Overall, there’s an increase in allocation for all the major sectors like health, education, agriculture and entrepreneurship, which is, hopefully, positive.
However, one sector that will receive what I feel is an unwarranted increase in allocation is the Islamic development sector (RM1.03 billion has been earmarked for this). Most of this money is going to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, better known as Jakim.
From 2017’s RM745 million, Jakim will get an increased allocation of RM811 million to spend in 2018. I honestly don’t know what better way (if any) Jakim plans to spend next year’s allocation – it’s not like they’ve been contributing a whole lot to developments in religion, or even to society as a whole.
So where will the money go? Are they looking to increase staff wages and bonuses? If they’re doing it as a reward for racism, then their employee, preacher Zamihan Mat Zin, would be deserving of such a raise, as we all know from his recent remarks.
Most recently, he said the Chinese were very dirty and unclean. This was in response to a laundromat in the state of Johor which had put up a sign saying they will not serve non-Muslim customers due to cleanliness issues.
Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim had announced his displeasure and said he would not tolerate such racist and exclusive behaviour in the state. He ordered the laundromat to take down the signage immediately.
This has since resulted in the Sultan ordering the state administration to cut ties and ignore the federal-level Jakim – a first for the state.
Zamihan has also been banned from speaking and preaching in Selangor. This is because he had insulted and criticised the Malaysian royal institution while preaching in a mosque in the state’s capital city Shah Alam.
Meanwhile, if Jakim’s budget is meant to be used to sow hatred and misunderstanding, then the department should really receive more for all that dedication it put into the campaign to stop non-Muslims and non-Malays from using the word “Allah”.
Remember how adamant they were about usage of that sacred Arabic word for God? Especially when Malay-speaking Christians here were found to be using it? Eventually, the word was banned from being used in sermons in Bahasa Malaysia and also in Christian publications in Malaysia.
They failed to realise that “Allah” is just one word that translates to God. There are many words that mean the same thing in different languages, such as “Tuhan”, “San”, etc. In fact, in the Arab world, all the different religions use “Allah” to refer to God.
So here we are approaching another year and supposedly another stage of progress in Malaysia. Unfortunately, the only area we don’t seem to see much progress in is our inter-religious and interracial understanding of each other. And that’s really sad, given the fact that the diversity of our people is what really helps us stand out as a nation.
You might call it wishful thinking, but here’s hoping that we see some improvements in 2018.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent