PETALING JAYA: Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has urged religious departments to use the resources at their disposal to help the poor instead of catching those who skip fasting during Ramadan.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Khairy voiced out on the controversial issue of religious policing, saying that it was a bigger priority to assist the needy than enforce religious obligations.
“Instead of religious depts spending money on enforcement people looking for people 'ponteng' (skipping) fasting, use them to help 'asnaf' and to do good,” he tweeted.
"Asnaf" refers to a group of people who are eligible to receive zakat (tithe), including the poor and converts.
“In terms of 'awlawiyat' (priority), it is more important we help the needy than enforce personal religious obligations. There is no compulsion,” he said in another tweet.
Khairy, who is Umno Youth chief, briefly caused a stir as Malaysians reacted to the tweets that have since been retweeted several hundred times in the space of two hours.
A Twitter user, who goes by the handle @notreallyimran, responded by suggesting that it was compulsory for religious departments to catch those who do not fast as fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
The minister replied by saying: “It is compulsory (wajib) for you to observe the five pillars. It is not compulsory for people to catch you not doing it.”
Under the Federal Territories Syariah Criminal Offences Act 1997, Muslims caught openly eating, drinking, or smoking during Ramadan can be fined a maximum of RM1,000 or jailed for six months, or both.
However, in response to calls from the public for him to do less talking and take more action, Khairy said that this was not such a “simple matter”.
“I can discuss with (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department) Jamil Khir about Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) and Jawi (Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department), but you must remember that other departments that conduct enforcement fall under state jurisdiction.
“So it’s not a simple matter of ‘don’t talk, just do’. Religion is a state matter. Many state religious departments are under the Rulers.
“Hence, one way to do it is by encouraging public debate. If societal expectations change, ergo pressure on religious departments,” he said.
On a separate note, Khairy also tweeted his observation that there were too many public "buka puasa" functions when Ramadan should be a time for “quiet reflection”.
The Rembau MP said politicians’ schedules had become packed with "buka puasa" events, leaving no time to reflect.
“It becomes a month of political obligation more than religious reflection. More concerned that we attend functions than appreciate the month.
“As a politician, I am aware of this obligation. And I do it. Doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts about it and how it should be otherwise,” he added.