Religious council mulling legal action against Umno

Terengganu's Religious and Malay Customs Council is mulling legal action against the local Umno branch over its allegations that it had mismanaged tithe funds.

The council's acting chief executive officer Datuk Engku Mohamed Engku Abdul Rahman said he was discussing the matter with the state legal adviser.

The council is responsible for collecting money for religious tithes or zakat from Muslims in the state as part of their religious obligations

Three weeks ago, state Umno information chief Mohd Nasir Ibrahim Fikri accused two PAS executive councillors and a former state PAS executive committee member of using the funds - meant for the poor and needy - to finance their children's studies in foreign universities.

Although Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang defended the use as legitimate, two of the PAS members involved had returned the money as they felt it was their 'moral responsibility' to do so.

Denying that there was abuse or mismanagement of money, Datuk Engku also said yesterday that all the recipients of the fund were qualified and eligible as they had met the council's twin requirements - that of being Malaysian and Terengganu-born.

They also fulfilled the other conditions of having received offers to study full-time at private or public higher learning institutions, and of never having received any assistance from other financial institutions or organisations.

In a second round of attacks on PAS, the state Umno also charged that the party had funnelled RM3 million (S$1.4 million) of the tithe fund annually to 300 of its cadres to deliver politically slanted religious lectures.

PAS has defended this practice too, as being in accordance with Islamic teachings. The campaigners, it said, were appointed after being interviewed by a special committee, which had religious figures on board.

It added that the political message the campaigners delivered was not improper either.