ISSN 2330-717X

JAKIM’s Undesirable Impact On Malaysian Politics And Society – Analysis

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Corruption has destroyed halal integrity

After three years of accusations over the lack of halal integrity and corruption within Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), a number of very concerning issues regarding the political environment and society have been exposed. These issues need to be identified and discussed. The purpose of this article is list these issues and make some preliminary observations, so they can be discussed within the public domain.

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JAKIM is not a divine religious organization

JAKIM is part of the Malaysian bureaucracy housed under the authority of the Prime Minister’s Department, and under supervision of the Council of Rulers. JAKIM is staffed by civil servants. There is nothing about divinity and altruism within JAKIM’s mission, other than to promote state influence within Islam and related issues. 

As such, civil servants who pursue a career within JAKIM share the same ambitions as civil servants in other ministries and agencies. They want promotion, pursue self-interest, and participate in internal politics. Consequently, JAKIM is not immune from corruption. 

JAKIM is primarily concerned with image and prestige

What we have learnt from allegations of halal protocol and foreign halal certifying body improprieties is that JAKIM as an organization is primarily concerned with preserving its image and prestige. Unfortunately, this compulsive concern comes at the expense of transparency and pursuing any due process in investigating corruption. The corporate culture within JAKIM is one of suppression, rather than rectifying problems. This has made JAKIM very protective and insular to outside comments and criticism. 

JAKIM’s culture of suppression protects wrongdoers 

JAKIM is no different from any other ministry or agency that would rather “sweep under the carpet” any wrongdoing, than allow a scandal to become public. Wrong doers, within a deep-set Malay Machiavellian culture will be moved sideways, or even promoted, rather than prosecuted by the law. This culture protects wrongdoers from ever being held responsible for corruption. 

JAKIM has become more powerful than the executive government

JAKIM has grown over the years to become a very powerful organization, where even cabinet and executive government are extremely hesitant to scrutinize and question for the fear of being seen as criticising the “defacto-Islamic state.” JAKIM’s special relationship with the Council of Rulers also offers it protection from criticism, as criticism of JAKIM could be deemed to be criticism of Royalty and thus, sedition. With a RM 1.5 billion budget, almost as much as the federal government spends on public housing, JAKIM is a massive bureaucracy. JAKIM even has diplomats, Halal Attachés at First Secretary rank in some diplomatic missions overseas. 

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Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for JAKIM have been very weak in scrutinising and directing the organization. JAKIM has its own agenda, independent of the executive. 

Zarizal Ahmad, listed on the official MACC website as the Assistant Commissioner and head of the Investigation School, claimed that corruption in the Islamic development agency is not new, saying he has received complaints personally as an officer, but added that the MACC has held off making any investigations on the halal certification process. JAKIM is well wired into Malaysia’s Islamic establishment, making it so far immune to prosecution.

Even Malaysia’s Muslim scholars and Mufti’s, except for one in the recent Thomas Foods International scandal, are scared to question JAKIM. 

There is currently a power struggle going on within JAKIM where the corrupt forces may prevail

There is a power struggle going on within JAKIM where the present Director General Hakimah Mohd Yusof is expected to have a very short tenure at the top. The failure to prosecute those involved in Halal racketeering in Australia, now leaves it open for Sirajuddin Suhaimee to become the next Director General. 

There is a strong possibility JAKIM will be controlled by corrupt officers in the very near future. 

The reality is that Malaysian Muslims are consuming non-halal and even haram meat today

The reality for Malaysian Muslim consumers today is they are consuming non-halal and even haram meat on a daily basis. Malaysia imports the bulk of its meat consumption, and the halal slaughter process, and accreditation of foreign halal certifying bodies has many faults, which JAKIM is not interested in correcting. 

Consumers will need to look for other ways to ensure their own halal integrity

This means that Malaysian Muslims must now take on the personal responsibility of ensuring what they consume is Halal. JAKIM has let them down. 

Consumers will have to go back to local producers of daging tempatan (locally produced meat) and buy direct from small holder farmers across the country. It will be the farmers, meat sellers, gerai (food stall), and restaurant proprietors who will have to jamin meat is halal through their own reputations, as was once practiced. 

This has been forced upon the nation by JAKIM. With every problem, there is an opportunity. Small holders in rural Malaysia can now bump up their production. This will redistribute funds away from the meat cartels to rural communities, and even assist in eliminating corruption

The integrity of JAKIM (and JAKIM appointed FHCB) halal certificates is gone

JAKIM halal certificates now lack integrity. This has resulted from a broken system, manipulated by selfish rogue JAKIM officers and those who have colluding with them. This is at a time where the halal foods market internationally is growing exponentially. The Halal Development Corporation (HDC) and MATRADE hoped that Malaysia would capitalize on this. 

Countries like Thailand, with more than 6 million Muslims have a modern and sophisticated halal industry and are rapidly capturing markets across the world with their high-quality products and good reputation of their halal certification and supply chain system. This is years advanced to the current Malaysian system. 

Malaysia’s halal meat supply chain is full of racketeering and corruption from abattoir to table. Corruption in Malaysia’s Halal Hub within JAKIM has cost Malaysia dearly in terms of expanding international trade. 

JAKIM has been involved in trade collusion with a foreign nation 

As has been seen with the TFI halal scandal, JAKIM has a very close relationship with the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and Environment (DAWE). There is strong evidence that both bodies colluding in this cover up. This cover up tried to hide breaches in halal protocol, the exploitation of workers, and corruption. These activities are all abhorrent in Islam and unexpectable.

What went on in the TFI halal scandal has already gained the attention and concern of BRIC nations diplomats, who are very unhappy with the conduct of JAKIM within the international trade sphere. Unfortunately there is no anti-corruption organization that these type of bilateral-collusion can be reported.  

The halal certification system has many flaws

JAKIM’s halal certification system has many flaws, which allows for abuses. In addition JAKIM has specified varying standard operating procedures (SOPs) for different foreign halal certifying bodies (FHCBs). There are ISO standards for Halal, which JAKIM won’t accept. 

The major issue with halal certification is that it is monetized where FHCBs make money out of volume. For FHCBs halal certification is a lucrative money making enterprise, which is an incentive for cutting across SOPs and corruption. The whole system of halal certification needs review and discussion with the objective of eradicating corruption from the system. 

JAKIM has no incentive to undertake this review as policy making executives are profiting out of the status quo. 

Malaysians have been let down by the Islamic institutions that were created for the purpose of protecting the faith of Islam and developing the religion within the nation. Malaysians must now take up their own spiritual responsibility and develop their relation between themselves and God, outside the Islamic bureaucracy. 

Religion and government doesn’t work when mixed together. Malaysia’s experiment with Islam in government is costing the nation dearly, in terms of halal integrity, corruption, food security, and international trade. 

Murray Hunter’s blog can be accessed here

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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