There is no provision in the Federal Constitution that declares our fundamental rights must be consistent with Islam. Therefore, Malaysia is a secular state.
Constitutional lawyer Nizam Bashir said other countries like Maldives, for instance, had a specific article that declared fundamental liberties must be consistent with the religion.
“Maldives, however, has a population of almost 100% Muslims; we do not. Our Constitution was drafted unique to our specific conditions and population,” he told The Rakyat Post.
Earlier today, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Religious Affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said Malaysia was not a secular country as the official religion in the country, according to the Constitution, was Islam.
Nizam refuted the claim, stating the provisions that Jamil had cited did not prove his point.
He said Article 3 (1) states Islam was the official religion, but Article 3 (4) states: “Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution”, therefore, making 3 (1) stand on its own and only relevant for Acts that related to rituals and ceremonies.
Nizam said linking Article 3 (1) to the country being Islamic was also refuted by a unanimous landmark Supreme Court decision of Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor (1988).
He said in that decision, former Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas, along with four others Wan Suleiman, George Seah, Hashim Yeop A. Sani and Syed Agil Barakbah, ruled Malaysia was governed by secular law.
“They meant that the history of the state had always been pointing in a secular direction and that we were not an Islamic state. Yes, we are secular, but the question is, to what extent?”
PAS central working committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the Federal Constitution was neither secular nor Islamic because it was truly a hybrid and unique one that was most appropriate for our multiracial and multi-religious demography.
He said the Constitution was fine the way it was as it encompassed principles that our founding fathers had agreed upon when the nation was formed.
“More important than the constant political bickering is the need to make sure our country has good political leadership to steer us to greater heights, at the same time making sure we provide justice for all.
“It is important for us to stem out both racial and religious bigotry and avoid being embroiled in this perennial political polemics and conflict that will only lead us down the path of self-destruction.”
He said when sanity and reason prevailed, Malaysia would be a better nation.
“We share this nation and as long as we hold on to the values of justice, accountability, strong religious and moral values and fairness, we shall make Malaysia a prosperous nation for all.”