MCA and hudud: Part 1

Stanley Koh | October 18, 2011 Free Malaysia Today

The party can’t hold a candle to DAP when it comes to principled opposition to Islamic state ambitions.


Two questions arise from MCA’s recent call on DAP to abandon the Pakatan Rakyat coalition because PAS is pushing for hudud punishments and, ultimately, an Islamic state.

First: Why did former MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik fail to protest when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Malaysia an Islamic state in 2001?

MCA Youth chief Wee Ka Siong’s recent defence of Ling’s silence does not hold water. He said Mahathir’s declaration did not include a threat to change the Federal Constitution. Neither has Pakatan said it would change the constitution to suit PAS’s ambition.

Second: Since MCA is questioning DAP’s commitment to principles, what has happened to its own principles in the face of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent remark that Malaysia was merely “not ready” for hudud?

Muhyiddin’s statement seemed to suggest that Umno, like PAS, longs to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.

If PAS’s insistence on pushing for hudud is a “methodological tactic”, then what should we call Umno’s long-term process of Islamisation?

When it comes to opposing hudud and other proposals that could lead to the establishment of an Islamic state, MCA’s track record is dismal. It does not come anywhere near DAP’s standards of consistency in commitment to principles.

It was on Sept 29, 2001, that Dr Mahathir claimed Islamic-state status for Malaysia.

“Umno wishes to state loudly that Malaysia is an Islamic country,” he said in his address at Gerakan’s 30th national conference. “This is based on the opinion of ulamas who have clarified what constitutes as Islamic country.

“If Malaysia is not an Islamic country because it does not implement the hudud, then there are no Islamic countries in the world.”

Kelantan Menteri Besar and PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat responded immediately and furiously. “You can talk all you want,” he said. “You can declare a piece of wood to be gold or a wheelbarrow to be a Mercedes, but in reality nothing has changed.”

According to Nik Aziz, his party’s definition of an Islamic country meant a nation governed according to the tenets of the Quran and Hadith. Malaysia was still a secular state, he said. “If the present Malaysia is already an Islamic state, then what do you call the state ruled by the Prophet and his companions?”

DAP, like PAS, was shocked by Mahathir’s declaration. It called for an urgent parliamentary debate on the subject.

MCA’s forum and Ling’s remarks

On Oct 20, 2001, at the request of several members of the Inter-Religious Council, MCA organised a closed-door forum on the issue.

Among the participants were Dr Hamid Othman (the Prime Minister’s Department Religious Adviser), Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara, Zainah Anwar of Sisters in Islam and several representatives of the Inter-Religious Council.

Ling chaired the session. In his opening remarks, he said: “No one can claim monopoly of knowledge, because the frontier of knowledge keeps on expanding. This seminar is an opportunity to explore, discover and learn.

“There are many questions in mind. Is Umno correct in declaring Malaysia an Islamic country? Or an Islamic nation? Or an Islamic state? Or a Negara Islam? Have the Umno ulamas been correct in defining or in getting the right definition that Malaysia is qualified to be, like the OIC says, not just an Islamic state, but a shining example of a Muslim state?”

The following are unedited transcripts from tape recordings of some of Dr Ling’s remarks:

“We’d like to know what are the criteria for these definitions. We’d like to know are all Islamic countries the same? Is there a single model? What are the basic criteria that would qualify a nation to be defined as an Islamic nation?

“When the PM explained to the BN and the Cabinet about Umno’s position on Malaysia being declared to be qualified as an Islamic state, he also made this very liberal comment: ‘While Umno feels … ulamas feel … and the people who know this religion feel … Malaysia qualifies just as OIC who declared Malaysia or recognizes Malaysia an Islamic state, there is also this pertinent and relevant point of view that Malaysia is not a theocratic state. And that point of view, if you want to call Malaysia a secular state, it’s still correct. Because we do not call ourselves a theocratic state, we can still call ourselves a secular state.’

“We want to ask ourselves. Can we call a country by two or three different names—an Islamic state, a secular state?

“My simplistic thinking … if we look at a rose, being English educated, I would call it a ‘rose’. But other Chinese-educated call it ‘mei gui’ in Mandarin. A Malay friend will call it ‘bunga mawar’. And ‘roja’ in Tamil.

“Yet, it is still a rose. So can we call Malaysia an Islamic state, a secular state and so on and so forth?

“Similarly, an apple. It is round, has seeds, crunchy. It has a stalk, but some people call it ‘apple’, some call it ‘ping gor’.

“Politically, Umno’s definition as Mahathir described it, the status quo, describes the present state of Malaysia which derives from the same supreme law of the land, the Malaysian Constitution, which will not change, which has not changed as far as the religious descriptions there, which will never change.

“Some may ask how do we ensure that his thoughts, his thinking will not change? That the other implications will not change? How do we ensure this? Are there any international conventions we can subscribe to? Are there other instruments we can subscribe to so that … other safeguards … that the whole world watches over this status quo?”

Academic exercise

It was clear that Dr Ling was merely engaging in an academic exercise. The forum had no serious political inputs.

In closing his address, the MCA president said: “We hope in seminars like this, we can learn, we can discover and we can disseminate.

“Knowledge has three components—the generation of knowledge, the dissemination of knowledge and application of knowledge. Today, we are trying to generate for ourselves sufficient knowledge so that we can disseminate correctly to society.”

In a subsequent article, we shall examine what Dr Mahathir actually said, what Hamid Othman conveyed at the forum and how the other participants responded.

Most importantly, we will examine the policy stand taken by Ling on behalf of his party.

Stanley Koh is the former head of MCA’s research unit. He is now a FMT columnist.

  1. #1 by Loh on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 9:29 pm

    Ling Liong Sik realized of course that rose would not react to whatever it is called. Similarly UMNO would not react whatever he said in an academic seminar. LLS knew how to behave in a politically correct manner in front of Mamakthir. Why did he not asked question of the person whose utterance matter, at the right place?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 9:49 pm

    ///It was clear that Dr Ling was merely engaging in an academic exercise.///

    Dr Ling had no choice; he had to engage in an academic exercise. In being Mamakthir’s “Yes” man, Dr Ling cannot go against Mamakthir and tell him, “Our closed-door forum clearly showed that the Islamic nation status you declared on Malaysia is irrational and contradicts the constitution.”

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 10:14 pm

    LLS has only one ambition in his years working under the Super-Ego: the PKFZ project! The yes-man would bend anything just to make a kill which had come back to haunt him. For a medical doctor with supposedly above average grey matter, his stooping would make goose hair. He did sell everything on his way, as Mao once remarked on certain category of Chinese whom he could not trust because they would even sell their grand-mothers! Of course the saddest thing was he was put up there to supposedly lead the Community for umpteen years; finally spitting into the high heaven who returns it with interests! So his comment on such spiritual issue is irrelevant!

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 1:53 am

    Ours a country where Muslims are majority based on 1 man 1 vote system not to count constitutional provisions giving undue voting weightage to rural Malay/Muslim constituencies. This suggest only Malay Muslims have greater say – regime change or not – on the course of national policies whether Islamic policies are moderate or strict ala Middle East. Except for political mileage, this debate of who really can or can’t hold a candle to the other in opposing is not really helpful at practical level because neither DAP nor MCA on its own alone would be able to influence that course.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 1:54 am

    It’s confusing to compare who can hold the candle better. Eg the question what has MCA done in the face of DPM Muhyiddin’s recent remark that Malaysia was merely “not ready” for hudud? Equally what could DAP do or has done when PKR’s Anwar & PAS’s Nik Aziz said the same thing like Muhyiddin? Like TDM’s declaration of Islamic nation, which MCA went along, and DAP opposed – is TDM’s Islamic nation (ie a country whose administration is accentuated with Islamic elements/institutions but without necessarily a change in Constitution) the same as PAS’s theocratic state with Hudud (that requires a change in Constitution) for both MCA and DAP’s response to be at same level for comparison a to who opposes more stringently???

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 1:55 am

    Stanley says “DAP, like PAS, was shocked by Mahathir’s declaration. It called for an urgent parliamentary debate on the subject” – not like MCA! But one should not forget that DAP & PAS opposed TDM’s Islamic nation for different reasons: DAP for its deviating from secular constitution and PAS, for its not deviating the secular aspect of the constitution enough towards the tenets of the Quran and Hadith! So how to compare? Besides UMNO that MCA collaborates in BN coalition is still very capitalist whereas DAP collaborates in PR coalition with PAS that is comparatively more Islamic (than capitalist) if one uses what it says and pushes in respect of Hudud as benchmark. Aain how does one compare this holding candle stuff?

  7. #7 by monsterball on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 6:19 am

    For talking…be it for or against or sitting at the middle…Ling Liong Sik can do it all.
    He is the best Mahathir’s shoe shine boy.
    Mahathir did say Malaysia is an Islamic State…and with his usual snaky way….he can twist it to something else.
    Ling always performed his best to the delight of Mahathir…so much so… Ling to steal RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Trade Zone money…without Mahathir knowing it…that is if you believe that sharp eyes mind..ex PM can be a sleepy head too.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 8:25 am

    The issue is why MCA can say these things, things which they have no credibility to open their mouth on, and still rile people up?

    The reason is real desperation and lack of self-confidence on part of the Chinese population. For all our profession of being more educated and more skilled, most of us still fail our confidence when push comes to shove. Our forefathers were migrants who left troubled times and places to seek their fortune out of desperation. They were not pioneers and explorers with a sense of adventure i.e., they were not rugged individuals who were dreamers but rather more schemers and plotters.

    In other words, the same dependency that exist for the Malays, we are also guilty of albeit to a much lesser degree. Hence we a susceptible to the same tricks of UMNO that MCA is employing, MCA just need to take it to a different degree.

    So it falls on the Chinese to proof that they are different, to show our Malay, Indian and East malaysian brothers and sister that they also can be different. If the Chinese cannot prove they are different, they can walk away from the same dependency, then there is no hope of asking our brethens to do the same.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 9:09 am

    They are showing right now.
    Don’t you see it….Bigjoe?
    Put yourself under tyrant rules with no Oppositions strong enough to lead Malaysian Chinese and other races to freedom.
    Survival for the fittest was the name of the game..before 12th GE.
    Then….look after 12th GE.
    I am sure vast majority Malaysians understand the situation….especially the well educated young voters.
    That’s what is all about…good Education….and it comes from the Internet…the era of knowledge cannot be controlled.
    And that spells the end of mind poisoning politics by UMNO b rouges and thieves.

  10. #10 by ktteokt on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 9:10 am

    But I remember when MAHATHIR declared that MALAYSIA IS AN ISLAMIC STATE, Chew Mee Fun from MCA raised both HANDS AND LEGS in support!!!!!

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