Malaysia Not Secular State - What The Legal Experts, Politicians Say

Is Malaysia an Islamic or a secular state? Some constitutional law experts and organisations have different views on this.

Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan:

"Malaysia is a secular state, not an Islamic state. The law is clear about this whereby the supreme court in a 1998 case decided by Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas stated clearly: we are a secular state and the civil court administers secular law.

"Certainly, Islam receives special treatment in the Federal Constitution but that does not mean Malaysia is an Islamic state.

"It does not follow from the provision in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution that we are an Islamic state in the legal term.

"Going back to the time of our founding fathers and the Reid Commission report, it is clear we were not meant to be an Islamic state. Taking this position today is contrary to our consititutional history."

"We believe there is a misunderstanding that can be resolved by looking closely at the constitution."

International Islamic University Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari:

"Malaysia is not a secular state because Islam has been put as the "religion of the Federation" by Article 3(1).

"But, it is acceptable to say Malaysia is "an Islamic nation with its own interpretation." Given the sensitivities and ignorance of both Muslims and non-Muslims, such is understandable.

"Because, even for a country like United Kingdom, with good policies, orderly system and humane laws, it can be Islamic in that sense."

Universiti Teknologi Mara lecturer Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi:

"Malaysia is never secular but at the same time, it is not an Islamic state. We are neither here nor there.

"We walk the middle path. But this is not something we should be ashamed of. Instead, it is a pride.

"Malaysia was always promoting Islam. In line with this, it is clear that Malaysia was never neutral on the issue of religion.

"But we have never emphasised on ideological purity. We are not a theocratic state. The constitution is the supreme law of the nation. So, it does not permit a conclusion that we are a full-fledged Islamic state.

"To me, there is no need to adopt a black or white agreement. There are shades of grey. We are a hybrid state. Our system are all mixed.

"We are a Muslim nation whereby Muslims are in control, but not in the legal way. "And actually, there is no prototype or ideal model of an Islamic state in the world. Not even Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, as they do have customs which have nothing to do with Islam."

MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai:

The Federal Constitution's tenet has always been that Malaysia is a secular state, and not an Islamic state. Although the official religion is Islam, the people can practise other religions. Najib's statement that Malaysia is an Islamic should not be taken literally but in a general sense that it is an Islamic country, where the majority of the population is Muslim. Malaysia is an Islamic country, which has a Muslim majority population and which is a member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference; it is not an Islamic state which practises theocracy. MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy, reported as saying at the MCA general assembly last year.

MCA recognises that Malaysia is an 'Islamic country', like Indonesia and Turkey. 'Islamic states' are like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, where all the administration is based on the Quran. MCA would go all out to protect the Federal Constitution and would never be slack about this. Because of this, the Kelantan government could not implement its Hudud laws.

Opposition Leader and DAP member of Parliament for Ipoh Timur Lim Kit Siang:

Najib's statement is a unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional revision of the fundamental principles of nation-building agreed by the forefathers of the major communities on the founding of the nation.

It is agreed that while Islam is the official religion of the federation, Malaya and later Malaysia is not an Islamic state, whether of the PAS or Umno variety. Tunku said at his 80th birthday celebration organised by the Barisan Nasional in1983: "The Constitution must be respected and adhered to. There have been attempts by some people who tried to introduce religious laws and morality laws. This cannot be allowed.

"The country has a multi-racial population with various beliefs. Malaysia must continue as a secular state with Islam as the official religion." Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia is an Islamic state on Sept 29, 2001, when Umno did badly in the general election, as a gambit to fend off the PAS challenge to the Malay heartland.

The Merdeka social contract has become a political pawn when political parties or leaders find it expedient to manipulate it to shore up political support.

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