From the Malaysian Insider.
First it was to be a "small fry" body - now it is to be an "impotent" body? Why bother then? I think the
UMNO MPs want impotent inter-faith body
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani
KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 —The Cabinet-endorsed inter-faith committee must have no powers and should only be a platform for religious dialogue, several Umno lawmakers have said today.
There has been growing discontent in the Muslim community since the establishment of the committee, especially from right-wing NGO Perkasa and, recently, the Perak Fatwa Committee led by influential state Mufti, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria.
Batu Pahat MP and deputy education minister, Puad Zarkashi, said the panel should not be used to pressure the government on religious matters.
“This panel can be accepted as long as it does not have any authority but can [only] discuss [religious matters] so there can be common understanding to prevent sensitive issues from being raised.
“But if it is to pressure government and amend the (federal) constitution, then I would certainly not agree. It is against the constitution because Islam is the official religion and cannot be equated to other religions,” he said.
The Cabinet agreed recently to form an inter-faith committee to foster religious understanding and harmony, damaged in the past few months by religious differences such as the controversial “Allah” ruling.
It had earlier this year appointed Datuk Ilani Isahak to chair the committee and green-lighted five sub-committees to draw up proposals on how best to deal with the inter-religious conflicts.
Jerlun MP and deputy minister of international trade, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, claimed ignorance over the inter-religious body but nevertheless was of the view that the panel should be limited only to providing advice.
“I actually have to admit that I do not know enough about this grouping, I am not certain that it is at all a committee. What I hear is that it is a very small group of people representing different faiths, who meet regularly to talk about issues. From that, I would think their role is just to provide advice when it is needed and not for them to actually have any real authority to decide on matters.
“So if it is just on an advisory [body] and that advice may or may not be accepted by the powers that be, then I think there is really no major need to worry about it,” he said.
The government, he said, had failed to clearly explain the level of authority vested in the panel.
“I think it needs to be explained a bit better what the grouping really is. If it is a grouping like it has been reported in the media, then who actually appointed this committee and what kind of mandates do they have?
“There are so many questions. I think due to the lack of information to this so-called perceived committee, perhaps that is why Pasir Mas MP (Datuk Ibrahim Ali) reacted that way. So it has to be clearer about what this grouping does and who are its members,” he said.
Semporna MP and Rural and regional development minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, provided his own interpretation of the committee’s functions, and said it was not about faith but rather unity.
“Actually, it is not inter-faith, it is about unity,” he said.
Yesterday during the Supplementary Supply Bill debate, two BN MPs — Datuk Mohamad Aziz (Sri Gading) and Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (Kinabatangan) — called for the government to replace the panel with a racial relations committee instead.