Archive for August 9th, 2007

Secular/Islamic state contention just word-play or argument over labels?

As I said at the DAP public forum “An Islamic State after 50 years?” at the KL/Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 25th July 2007, there are diverse non-Muslim responses to the “717 Declaration” by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak on July 17, 2007 that Malaysia is an Islamic state and not and had never been a secular state.

One is to deride the claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state, asking how anyone could entertain the notion that Malaysia is an Islamic state when gambling and alcohol are allowed in the country.

Another is to ask how Malaysia could be an Islamic state when there is no full implementation of the hudud and syariah laws.

I also quoted an Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer as representing another school questioning the validity of the “Islamic state” claim, arguing that an Islamic state should have the following characteristics: (1) it should be absolutely non-discriminatory on the basis of race, colour, language and nationality; (2) it should guarantee gender equality; (3) it should guarantee equal rights to all religious groups and accept plurality of religion as legitimate; and (4) lastly it should be democratic in nature whose basic premise will be human dignity. Asghar Ali Engineer concluded his contention: “Only those states which fulfill these criteria can be construed to be Islamic in nature. Thus an Islamic state is the very epitome of modern democratic pluralistic state. (The Concept of Islamic State — Asghar Ali Engineer)

There is certain validity in these three and other arguments challenging the claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state, but they failed to capture the whole dynamics and implications of the Islamic state contention. Read the rest of this entry »