COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
16 June 2014
Here we go again. A Malaysian minister is insisting that Malaysia is not a secular state, and that is anchored in Islamist roots because there are the Malay rulers and state Islamic laws exist for Muslims.
That argument might have worked if it was just Malaya that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datul Seri Jamil Khir Baharom was referring to in a written reply in Parliament to Oscar Ling Chai Yew (DAP-Sibu) today.
But you know what, Mr Minister, we are now in Malaysia and perhaps you should go read your history books.
This country was formed in 1963, and brings together Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore was told to leave in 1965.
Jamil Khir is not the first minister to believe that Malaysia is not a secular state and is possibly an Islamic nation because Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said as much years ago.
Another minister in the PM’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Aziz, said the same in 2012. And Malaysians will continue to hear this figment of their imagination because there are people who want to believe Malaysia is not secular.
The reality is, of course, different. Malaysia is a secular state where the rule of law is supreme. The Federal Constitution is the basic law, not the Quran.
This is a country which practises parliamentary democracy and is a constitutional monarchy. Anyone can become the prime minister or minister, and sometimes that is the reason behind inane pronouncements that we are not a secular state.
But you don’t have to go far to contradict the likes of Jamil Khir or expose his ignorance. Just open up the history books and refer to the words of our founding prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The Malaysian Insider in October 2012 referred to several Tunku Abdul Rahman’s statements that Malaysia was a secular state, and not an Islamic one.
He was first recorded telling Parliament on May 1, 1958: “I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood; we merely provided that Islam shall be the official religion of the state.”
The Star had also reported Tunku speaking on February 8, 1983 at a gathering to celebrate his 80th birthday, with the headline “Don’t make Malaysia an Islamic state – Tunku”, where he said “the country has a multiracial population with various beliefs. Malaysia must continue as a secular state with Islam as the official religion.”
In the same newspaper, Malaysia’s third PM, Tun Hussein Onn, was reported as supporting his predecessor in rejecting Malaysia being made an Islamic state.
“The nation can still be functional as a secular state with Islam as the official religion,” Hussein said.
National University of Singapore’s Hussin Mutalib had interviewed Tunku for his book, “Islam in Malaysia: From Revivalism to Islamic State”.
In the interview, Tunku said: “There is no way we should have an Islamic state here… The nature of our political parties, our coalition government, our democracy, and our multiracial life are sufficient foundations which can be used to build a prosperous and peaceful Malaysia. Why must we look to Iran and other Islamic states?”
An Islamic state is defined as a country where the primary basis for government is Islamic religious rule, the Shariah law. Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the federation, and it is used to support the claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state rather than secular.
However, in drafting the Constitution of Malaysia, the Reid Commission had this to say about Islam as an official religion, in its report in February 1957: “The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practising their own religion and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.”
The ignorance what Malaysia is, some 50 years after its formation, points to one thing. That we need citizenship and civics classes to know what Malaysia is all about.
It should be a requirement for all, especially those who take the oath of office in Parliament as our ministers. After all, would you find a casino in an Islamic state or a secular one? – June 16, 2014.