KUALA LUMPUR- A Muslim politician from Chinese-based ruling party, the Democratic Action Party ( DAP), has been appointed to the board of trustees of the Islamic Propagation Foundation of Malaysia (Yadim).
The bold move might unsettle Malay Muslims, most of whom have yet to give the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government their support.
The DAP politician is Mr Sheikh Omar Ali, 33, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Usuluddin (Islamic studies) from Universiti Malaya, majoring in dakwah (propagation), local media reported on Tuesday (Jan 29).
He left Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) to join the DAP in 2005, and is today the Johor State Cabinet Minister for Information, Entrepreneurship Development, Cooperatives and Creative Economy.
Yadim has a high-profile role in Malaysia. It is an agency under the Prime Minister's Department that coordinates Islamic propagation involving government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
The appointment of Mr Sheikh Omar was announced by Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Malaysia's de facto Islamic Affairs Minister on Tuesday (Jan 29).
"Sheikh Omar was appointed as someone with a religious education background," he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini. "There should be no negative perception... he's a Muslim, he has merit, and contributed some good ideas in the past," he told reporters.
Critics of the PH government, of which the DAP is a member, may be discomfited by the appointment, especially as the two main opposition parties - Umno and PAS - have been pushing the line that the DAP is anti-Islam.
Former deputy Islamic affairs minister and Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said on Tuesday that Mr Sheikh Omar is from a party that had never recognised Islam as Malaysia's official religion.
Islamic institutions in Malaysia, Datuk Asyraf claims, are under threat from the "DAP-dominated" PH government.
News of the appointment comes as the four-party ruling alliance is still struggling to attract more Malay support, eight months after winning the general election.
PH's candidate from the DAP lost badly in the Cameron Highlands by-election held last Saturday, as Malay voters mostly backed Umno despite last-minute campaigning by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.