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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

THE ISLAMIC STATE-SECULAR STATE DEBATE

By SSK

JAIS, MAIS, PDRM, and whatnot are all in the news either because of their action or because of their inaction. Now Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, has come out to say that Malaysia is not a secular country.

If Malaysia is not a secular country then what type of country is it then?

Jamil’s statement has raised the confusion ever further because, on 1st May 1958, the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, told Parliament that Malaya is not an Islamic state and that Islam is merely the official religion of the state.

This is in line with the 1957 White Paper on the Federation of Malaya that said the proposed Federal Constitution with a declaration that Islam is the religion of the Federation in no way affects the present and future position of a the federation as a secular state.

Jamil was responding to a question from the Member of Parliament for Sibu, Oscar Ling Chai Yew, who wanted to know whether Malaysia is a secular country or an Islamic country.

Jamil went into details regarding the history of the country and cited Articles in the Constitution that, to Jamil, proves that Malaysia is not a secular country. However, he did not quite say that this, therefore, makes Malaysia an Islamic country although Jamil was probably hinting to that fact.

And this is the crux to the whole problem. Is Malaysia a secular country or is Malaysia an Islamic country? Two groups of ‘experts’ appear to have conflicting views on this. The truth is more likely that it is ambiguous and hence no one can really tell for sure.

And this raises the other issue. Where does the buck stop? Who is the final authority on matters concerning Islam? It seems even the Prime Minister, the Menteri Besar and the courts cannot tell the federal and state religious authorities what to do. They take their orders from God, or so it seems.

Now PAS, a member of the Selangor State Government, has asked that the powers of MAIS and JAIS be reduced so that they can be brought under state government control. Is this an indication that MAIS and JAIS are working against the Selangor State Government?

This appears to be a ‘simple’ problem. And when we say ‘simple’ here we mean it is merely a matter of confusion and ambiguity. No one really knows who is the boss, the elected government or the ‘members of the cloth’. And that is why Malaysia is facing this problem.

However, this is not as simple as they are trying to make it appear. There are certain people hiding behind ‘confusion’ and ‘ambiguity’ to create mischief. And the reason is very clear.

There are some in Umno who want to oust Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and there are some in Pakatan Rakyat who want to oust Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Clearly these many controversies regarding Islam over the last few months is hurting both Najib and Khalid. And when Najib and Khalid cannot control what the ‘religious authorities’ do then it will have a serious backlash on them.

So this is the real reason behind these religious controversies.

Again, Islam is being used as a political weapon, as it has always been. However, while the effort to oust Najib and Khalid may or may not prove successful in the end, it is going to be at the expense of racial and religious harmony. This latest religious controversy is just making the divide even worse and is pushing Malaysians further apart and beyond any hope of reconciliation.

But then was that not also what happened in May 1969, which until today the wounds have not fully healed?

Malaysians never learn, do they?

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