The interfaith row in Selangor will not be resolved as long as the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) is compelled to abide by the policies of the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), says former Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.
The Selangor government had erred in placing Jais under Mais, Asri told The Malaysian Insider, as this has left Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim with his hands tied over how the religious authorities carried out their duties.
Asri also said the Selangor government’s power over Jais must be re-evaluated, referring to the seized Bibles issue and Mais’s open defiance of Khalid’s orders for the Bibles to be returned.
“Right now, the menteri besar seems powerless… the Selangor government’s policies are not reflected in Jais, as Jais is not under the state government’s jurisdiction,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
The religious tussle in Selangor broke out when Jais seized 321 Malay and Iban-language Bibles from The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) on January 2.
Mais complicated matters when it defied Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s decision last week to close the case, as well as Khalid’s orders for the Bibles to be returned.
”I don’t want to comment on the (seized) Bibles, because generally, Islam does not interfere in the books of other faiths,” Asri said.
“But there are complications over whom Jais is answerable to, and how far the state government’s scope of power is.”
Asri said that as long as the relationship between Mais and Jais was not corrected, the conflict between the state religious authority and the state government would continue.
“There will often be a conflict of power between Jais and Mais with the state government.
“This conflict will go on as long as they do not spell out their powers.
“The Selangor government must correct their scope of power,” he added.
Mohd Asri said the biggest mistake Selangor Pakatan Rakyat made was to place Jais under Mais when they took over the state in 2008.
“Why is it that when (former Selangor religious exco) Datuk Hassan Ali previously proposed this, the state government did not oppose it?” he asked.
Last week, Gani had said that Jais had erred in seizing the Bibles from BSM in January, and ordered the case closed.
But Mais had rejected the decision and refused to return the Bibles, sparking criticism from Selangor Pakatan leaders and the public.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has urged Mais to discuss the matter with the attorney-general if it believed Gani should re-examine his decision on the Bibles.
Meanwhile, Khalid, who met with the Sultan of Selangor on the issue of the seized Bibles yesterday, said he would announce the final decision on Monday after he meets with the sultan for a second time today.