KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs a grand mufti who will be able to explain issues relating to Islam to the public effectively and prevent the religion from being distorted to suit the interests of certain quarters.
Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) director-general Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas said he made the proposal after considering the current differing views among the religious scholars and the various mufti in the country.
“With a grand mufti, religious issues will no longer be debated openly in the media because it can be discussed behind closed doors among qualified mufti,” he told mStar, The Star’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal, in an interview.
Dr Syed Ali said Ikim would organise a seminar next year to propose methodologies and provisions relating to the proposed appointment of a grand mufti.
“Since the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of Islam in the country, the appointment of the proposed grand mufti can also be made on a rotation basis and come from the state of the current Yang di-Pertuan Agong.”
He said the main characteristics of the grand mufti would be someone who was knowledgeable, responsible and not an extremist, in line with the country’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.
He added that Egypt, Jordan and Australia had grand mufti each.
Dr Syed Ali said with the grand mufti, confusion on issues relating to religion could be avoided and religious enforcement agencies could play a more relevant role towards the development of the ummah.
He said threats and criticisms raised by certain quarters following what Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said showed that traditional knowledge of Islam was being destroyed by certain parties with self-interest at heart.
He said if the situation persisted, it could destroy the traditional knowledge of the religion, leading to confusion, bigotry and even chaos.
Mohd Asri had said that religious authorities should focus on more urgent matters such as combating corruption rather than spying on couples committing khalwat. This view drew much criticism.
“I may sound harsh, but the problem is that popular ulamak like sensational issues. They love to comment on such issues, knowing that people like to hear it,” Dr Syed Ali said.
“Why do we waste time catching those who commit khalwat? It is better if the religious enforcement officers and Rela members catch loan sharks who exploit the poor.
“They should work together because they are also responsible for the state of society.”
Dr Syed Ali said a bigger problem which religious enforcement agencies had to overcome was corrupt knowledge.
“For instance, ulamak who speak the truth are being silenced, but the views of those who are ignorant are being heard.
“Corrupt knowledge is even more dangerous than bribery because truth is turned into lies and vice versa. This leads to many Malays becoming lazy to gain knowledge,” he said.
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