Monday, October 22, 2012

Malaysia is not a secular state, says Nazri

  • Hazlan Zakaria
  • 12:28PM Oct 22, 2012

While stopping short of declaring Malaysia to be an Islamic state, a federal minister stressed today that the country was not founded as a secular state.

NONENor has it ever been declared or decided to be one, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz (right) told the Dewan Rakyat during Question Time today.
“Malaysia was founded on the basis of an Islamic government, under the Malay rulers as head of the religion... The word secular does not exist at all anywhere in our federal constitution,” Nazri said

What was clearly stated in the constitution, Nazri added, was that Islam is the religion of the federation.

He then went on to quote constitutional and legal provisions that preserve and protect the status and function of Islam in the country.

These include provisions naming Islam as the religion of the state, precluding missionary activities on Muslims and for the state to undertake the funding and formation of bodies that administer Islamic affairs.

Nazri was replying a question from Seremban MP John Fernandez on whether Malaysia is still a secular state, quoting the judgment rendered by former Lord President Salleh Abbas in Che Omar Che Soh versus Public Prosecutor.

To this, the de facto law minister specifically said that what was mentioned in the case were secular laws, meaning laws passed before Malaysia came into being, legislated under the secular British system.

As such he argued that it does not denote that we are a secular state.
The minister also brushed aside arguments from the house citing historical details, claiming that they could not be verified.

"I cannot verify this. If I answer, then it will be based on assumption and not facts," he said.

Kit Siang: Secular state said Tunku

Meanwhile, Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) who weigh in on the matter during the committee stage of Budget 2013, reiterated that the statements of our founding fathers and pre-constitutional documents proved that Malaysia was a secular state.

tunku abdul rahmanPointing to a Feb 8, 1983 gathering attended by all BN leaders when first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (left) celebrated his 80 birthday, Lim said the father of independence had declared to them that Malaysia was a secular state.

“On the front page of The Star on Feb 9, 1983, the headline was: ‘Tunku turns 80: Don’t make Malaysia an Islamic state’.

“Then the third prime minister Hussein Onn supported Tunku’s statement. On Feb 13, 1983, the (newspaper’s) headline was ‘Hussein says no to Islamic state, too’. These are the evidences,” he said.

Further to this, Lim said the pre-constitutional documents such as the Reid Commission report had clearly stated on paragraph 169 that Malaysia is a secular state, he said.

Lim also quoted Tunku Abdul Rahman again that “Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion”.

Also, he said that during the Cobbold Commission’s tenure for the formation of the Malaysian constitution, two of its Malaysian representatives namely Ghazali Shafie and Wong Pow Nee had reassured that Malaysia would not be an Islamic state in a bid to convince Sabah and Sarawak to join the federation.

“This is something (our founding fathers said) we should not move away from... But the present government has moved away from the position, saying that Malaysia is not a secular state,” he said when approached by journalist after the House broke for lunch.

However, Lim acknowledged that Malaysia was unique, because according to him, Malaysia was a secular state but has Islam as the official religion.

The secular state versus Islamic state debate has been ongoing for decades, the matter made worse by the ambiguities in the constitution and the legislation.

~ Malaysiakini

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