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Changing Malaysia from
“Islamic state to theocratic state” will be a much smaller and easier jump
as compared to the quantum leap involved in abandoning “Malaysia is a
secular state with Islam as the official religion and not Islamic state”
fundamental nation-building principle to “Malaysia was Islamic state and not
and never secular state”
(Parliament, Monday): One of the causes of gloom for many Malaysians on the occasion of the 50th Merdeka anniversary comes from the question whether Malaysia has lost one of its fundamental nation-building underpinnings agreed by the forefathers of the major communities in the Merdeka social contract and Malaysia Agreement half-a-century ago that ours is a secular state with Islam as the official religion and not an Islamic state?
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Bukit Mertajam on Saturday that Malaysia was not a secular or theocratic state but one which was based on parliamentary democracy.
What Abdullah did not say is as important as what he said. He deliberately omitted reference to the Islamic state. Is he saying that Malaysia is or is not an Islamic state?
Abdullah’s omission is understandable as general election is around the corner and he wants to make life easier for the Gerakan, MCA and other non-Umno Barisan Nasional leaders to mislead the people that the Merdeka social contract and Malaysia agreement were still intact and honoured although one of the core nation-building principles had been demolished.
Although Abdullah studiously avoided any reference to Islamic state, nobody can accuse Umno leaders of camouflaging their clear intentions as the declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state had not only been made by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister on Sept. 29, 2001 but reiterated by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak on July 17, 2007 who went on to say that Malaysia was not and had never been a secular state.
Furthermore, there had been unanimous support by Barisan Nasional leaders to Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” that Malaysia was an Islamic state, with the then Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik even anticipating Najib’s “717 Declaration” arguing at the time that Malaysia had been an Islamic state from Day One of the new nation!
After the next general election, what is there to stop the stitching together of these various declarations by the top Umno leaders which have received explicit support of the other Barisan Nasional leaders into one all-encompassing declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state and was not and had never been a secular state?
For 44 years until the Mahathir’s “929 declaration” in 2001, the position of the UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders were and unequivocal - that Malaysia was conceived as a secular state with Islam as the official religion and that It was not an Islamic state.
On the 50th Merdeka anniversary, the position has varied to: Malaysia is not a secular state. It is an Islamic state. It is not a theocratic state.
The abandonment of the “Malaysia is a secular state and not an Islamic state” stand and its replacement by the “Malaysia was an Islamic state and was not and had never been a secular state” position involved a quantum jump and tectonic shift, going against the very grain of the Merdeka social contract and Malaysia Agreement which had been openly defended by the nation’s forefathers including the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein.
Once it is accepted that Malaysia is an Islamic state, then the call to transform Malaysia into a theocratic state would involve smaller and much easier jump as compared to the quantum leap from Malaysia as a secular to an Islamic state.
If Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as the official religion which was totally unchallenged and undisputed for the first 44 years of Malaysian nationhood could be so summarily, undemocratically and unconstitutionally jettisoned, what is there to stop another small leap for those who want to see Malaysia’s Islamic state assuming full Islamist characteristics on the road towards a theocratic state?
It will not require another 50 years for such a smaller and much easier jump unless the present generation of moderate Malaysians, both Muslims and non-Muslims, are prepared to heed the recent advice of the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr. Nazrain Shah in quoting a leading jurist: ”We have to stand up and be counted. We have to protect the things that make our nations great...”
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman