KUALA LUMPUR— Civil group G25 explained today that it is not calling for the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to be abolished, but explained that a constitutional amendment is needed in order to form a federal Islamic administration agency.

The group made of former top civil servants said that the Federal Constitution states that Islamic matters fall under the jurisdiction of state governments and mooted the formation of a “National Council of Islam” instead.

“If the Rulers wish to have the power to create a council akin to the Malaysian National Council on Islamic Affairs and make Jakim its secretariat, they can do so by getting the Parliament to make an amendment to Article 38,” it said in a statement.

Doing so shall therefore enhance the role of the Rulers in matters pertaining to federal administration of Islam, as the Constitution currently provides a limited role to them.

“Our legal experts therefore hold the view that Article 38 was expressly worded to meet the wishes of the Rulers in not giving authority to the Conference to establish a national body or department on Islam at the federal level,” it said, adding such a body was meant only for liaison purposes.

As a result, matters pertaining to Islam as explicitly spelled out in Schedule 9, List II of the Constitution are under the exclusive purview of the states, not a federal-level body or the federal government.

“We would welcome the amendment to make Jakim constitutional, as this federal department in the Prime Minister’s Department has a big budget, bigger than the budget of some ministries,” it said.

“It will be embarrassing and legally risky to the government if somebody questions the legality of allocating public funds to Jakim and brings up the matter to court for a ruling on the constitutional status of the department. G25 believes that it is being constructive in pointing this out to the government.”

Under Budget 2020, it was estimated that Jakim will spend RM904 million in 2020, which falls the total RM1.06 billion expenditure for Islamic development under the Prime Minister’s Department.

It therefore suggested that Putrajaya can take a leaf out of the National Land Council, with Article 91 of the Constitution conferring power for the formation of such a federal agency to handle and, which is the jurisdiction of state governments.

“This body can be named ‘National Islamic Council’ that works like the National Land Council in matters pertaining to Islam, and with Jakim’s functions that is legally valid under the framework of the National Islamic Council,” it said.

On Saturday, G25 released its report titled “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam”, based on extensive research on the background and history of Islamic administration over the years.