There are troubles in the newsroom after The Star published an exclusive interview report with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion) Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa. The daily was told to tender an open apology within 24 hours or have strict action taken upon them, according to NST quoting the ministry’s press secretary.
So what exactly went wrong? FeedMe Malaysia will summarize the whole furore in nine points:
1. The Star: “No more night khalwat raids or intrusion into Muslims’ private lives says Mujahid”
Last Saturday (Oct 6), The Star reported the Islamic Affairs Minister’s intention to stop Khalwat raids. Mujahid said, as heard in the interview, that the government wasn’t interested in what Muslims do behind closed doors.
“Let’s say you commit something within your personal, individual sphere – I will not interfere, although it could be to my standard that it’s wrong.
“For example, consumption of alcohol is wrong for a Muslim, but if you consume it within your sphere, then as part of the government, I will not interfere.
“My concern is what goes on in public that encroaches on sensitivity, legality or criminality. Only then does the government come in, not because we want to be moral police but because we want to secure the public sphere,” Mujahid said.
In less than six months Mujahid took on the Islamic affairs portfolio, he had already faced many sensitive and pressing Muslim issues, such as the outcry of LGBT issues, underage marriage, public caning in Syariah courts and sexual abuse in tahfiz. As of now, Mujahid is committed to change the brand of Islam to what the government believes, which is based on the foundation of “compassionate for all” (rahmatan lil alamin).
“The government’s narrative of Islam will translate into our policies, all the Islamic judiciary activities, all our relations with other faiths.
“Being the compassionate Islam would (mean) protecting the different views that we have but at the same time also making sure all these different views and ideas do not harm the bigger interest or importance of national unity and harmony among different faith.”
The vice-president of Amanah then expressed his intention to stop Khalwat raids. He said he condemned the operation and wished his reform effort could put this as a thing in the past. He’s committed to change the mindset of “conservative religious” civil servants who wanted to uphold the sanctity of Islam with through their methods and understandings.
“This issue of enforcement on Khalwat has been misused and exploited in some cases. It is important that they (enforcement officers) do not interfere with the individual sphere,” said Mujahid.
He revealed that Khalwat operations were under the control of state government but the ministry could still hold a committee to push for a change from the federal level.
2. The report had since gone viral
Racking over 1,700 shares and 500 comments, many netizens were in favour of what Mujahid had said. Some Muslims were saying there was no use for the government to act as the “moral police” because after all, religion is a private relationship between one and the God.
3. Dr M is happy with what Mujahid had said
A day after the report was out (Oct 7), Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed that he shared a similar view with Mujahid. Dr Mahathir said the religion didn’t encourage its followers to intrude their fellow brothers and sisters’ home just to look for their sins; Islam cared deeply for the rights of humans, The Star reported.
“Islam is not a cruel religion and it is not about chopping (off) heads (or) hands,” the premier said.
“There are various ways of punishment, which are much milder, but these people want to harass, want to cut people’s hands (or) heads. That is not Islamic.”
Dr Mahathir said he had made the right choice in appointing Mujahid to hold the religion portfolio, adding that the latter retained the approach as enshrined in the Constitution which was practiced since the time of first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
“Islam does not ask us to go look for people’s sins, until you intrude into people’s houses – that is not Islam,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying.
4. Anwar urged the public not to jump to conclusion with Mujahid’s statement
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was a victim of a Khalwat raid himself in his past sodomy cases, said Mujahid’s statement must be scrutinized before jumping to conclusions.
“He did not encourage it (Khalwat). He was just talking about the legal action.
“We do not encourage it (Khalwat)… Maksiat (immoral activities) is still Maksiat,” said the Port Dickson by-election candidate yesterday.
5. Mujahid said The Star had put words into his mouth
Referring to The Star Online‘s headline of the article, “No more night khalwat raids or intrusion into Muslims’ private lives says Mujahid,” Mujahid denied that he had made such a definitive statement, Malaysiakini reported.
“I have never talked about the issue of knocking on doors at night being stopped… those were added by the editor who took their own assumption from my statements.
“Please refer to the interview inside the newspaper which shows more accurately what I meant to say,” said the religious affairs minister on Saturday.
“In my interview with The Star, what was mentioned in the headline did not come out from my mouth.
“I only spoke about the issue of offence, or what is said to be the public sphere and private sphere.
“I highlighted the abuse of power and intrusion into the private sphere, which does not reflect methods in Islamic teachings.”