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The Myth of Secularism

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It is rare for me to comment on this debatable issue. Although the heat point never stop, nevertheless our politicians are still love to open fire by contending Malaysia is an Islamic country, and vice versa.

The de facto law minister Dato’ Seri Nazri again pointed out that Malaysia is not a secular state. However, the question as to whether Malaysia is an Islamic state is left unanswered. Yes we may agree that the rakyat is (or probably) deeply concerns with this question. Thus, despite the fact that the myth has became another battlefield for the Barisan and Pakatan, we should fairly get to know our country’s current practice pertaining to this issue, a topic which I will return to.

Deputy Prime Minister has urged the society not to argue on this “Islamic-Secular State” issue. He further commented that it is vital for the administration to administer the Constitution in government’s routine. Fairly speaking I agree with DPM that one should look into the practice of Constitutionalism but DPM has had the question to be evaded, wisely.

Different people has different standard of morality and humanity principles. We might have capitalism or Marxism in faith. However, I strongly opined that we should uphold the most vital and approachable “Constitutionalism”, without any hesitation. In any means, Constitution is the supreme law of the land that no one and no any law can above it. 

Article 4(1)
This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Having said that, the awareness of Constitutionalism is apparently weak. More importantly, our fundamental liberties are governed under the Constitution and frankly speaking we have  no reason to reject the responsibility to understand it.

On other fronts, secularism should be explained in advance before further comments took place. To put it simple, secularism means a state without any religious institution attached to it. It is a principle of separation that the state is free from any religious rule and teachings. It may further be asserted that it is a right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people.

The de facto law minister contended that our Constitution is not applying the word “secular”, expressly or impliedly. In the mean time, Article 3(1) stated that Islam is the official religion in this Federation and it is further explained that the state has the duty to “protect, defend and promote” Islam. It is indisputable that Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and regardless of any races and religious beliefs, that everyone and anyone has a duty to respect and obey it.

To my point of view, we should look into the intention of the Constitution frame makers, or the draftsmen. However it is worth and ironically to point out that our Constitution was drafted by a country which do not has a codified constitution.

Let me extract several points from the Reid Commission Report:

i.) Observance of “the religion of Malaysia shall be Islam” shall not impose any disability of non-muslim natives professing and practicing their religions

ii.) Shall not imply that the State is not a secular state 

And also the White Paper suggested that:

i.) Declaration that Islam is religion of Federation does not affect present position as a secular state

The documents and evidences shown by the DAP Ipoh Timur MP, Lim Kit Siang may strengthen the argument of secularism further. 

Thus, upon and until this stage, I would rather to comment that it is irrelevant whether Malaysia is a secular or Islamic state, provided always Constitutionalism supersede the others in the first place. A pure politicians’ topic does not, and need not attract any interests at this juncture.

We should “constitutionalize” our daily life and have it into practice. The judicial attitude should be widen by referring to the Constitution frequently, in particularly connecting to the issues of personal liberties and religious beliefs (for non-muslim). 

Last but not least, the sovereign should have not amended the Constitution at their own will, which is based on political driven solely. The 1988 Constitutional Crisis has marked the dark sight in the Mahathir’s administration milestone that this precedent should not being repeated anymore in the future.

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