By Clara Chooi
Assistant News Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 - Popular Islamic preacher Azhar Idrus has come out in defence of Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, saying the PAS spiritual leader had not called BR1M recipients animals but blamed the Barisan Nasional (BN) government was treating them as such.
Harakahdaily reported Azhar as saying at a lecture here today that Nik Aziz’s analogy comparing BR1M handouts to animal feed had been misunderstood, adding advice to the public to be careful with what they read or hear in the media.
Azhar, who anchors his own TV lecture programme on Astro Oasis called “Kemah Keming Ustaz Azhar Idrus”, clarified that Nik Aziz had only meant that the administrators of BR1M, a government initiative where the poor are given RM500 cash handouts, were treating the people like animals by giving them money.
“In truth, what we heard from the video clip of Tok Guru that likens BR1M recipientst animals, was actually Tok Guru saying that those who are administering the BR1M handouts are trying trying to turn people into animals.
“It is like feeding them, and then slaughtering them.
“Meaning it is evil that these people are only offering aid when they feel they need to... when the elections are far away, they don’t even give help,” he was quoted as saying in Harakahdaily during a lecture at Masjid Pengadang Baru near Kuala Terengganu.
According to the PAS organ, Azhar was responding to a member of the audience who had asked his opinion on Nik Aziz’s alleged remarks.
He urged the public not to be naive, particularly with elections around the corner, pointing out that this would be the period when news would be spun out of context.
Without specifying names or political parties, Azhar pointed out that many election contenders have already begun campaigning in the villages or showing their faces there, despite having stayed outside in the past.
“What’s the purpose? Are they there to help or for other specific needs?
“So you need to be smart, do not just believe things without checking,” the outspoken independent preacher reportedly added.
Nik Aziz, who is also Kelantan Mentri Besar had invited controversy and harsh criticisms from political foes in BN when he reportedly compared BR1M recipients to animals.
He was reported as likening the recipients to chickens pecking at feed, earning the ire of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and numerous other BN lawmakers.
“Those who offer (money) to others, (are like) if we call chickens to come closer, we toss them grain. If we call the cows, we give them hay,” Nik Aziz had said.
“If we give things to others, give RM10, RM50 (they would come take it). This is not the Islamic way, the Islamic way is to give knowledge to mankind,” the PAS spiritual leader added.
Earlier today, Bernama Online reported Najib as reproaching PAS again for allegedly insulting BR1M recipients with Nik Aziz’s remarks.
“If the opposition don’t help the people, it’s alright, but don’t insult them. Don’t label the BR1M recipients as chickens pecking at feed,” he was quoted as saying at a function in Terengganu.
The country’s sixth prime minister, who is the brains behind BR1M, also insisted that the BN government he leads is responsible and trustworthy, adding that the cash handouts were in accordance with the people’s needs.
“We have calculated that on average, a family can buy groceries such as 10kg of rice, 5kg of cooking oil and other essentials per month with RM41.60.
“That means they have enough to buy food for 12 months with the RM500 BR1M,” he reportedly said.
Yesterday, Muhyiddin censured Nik Aziz for the latter’s remarks on BR1M, accusing him of belittling and insulting the poor.
“I am puzzled and amazed how a mentri besar and PAS leader, who should uphold Islamic religious principles, can make such a statement that is so insulting to the recipients, whom I know make up a large number of people,” the deputy prime minister was reported as saying.