Friday, 20 July 2007

Islamic Or Secular?

What did the Deputy Prime Minister mean when he asserted that Malaysia is an Islamic country or state? What is the basis of his claim? Could it be that he based it on the following considerations:

Islam is the official religion?

Muslims comprise the majority of the population?

The Yang DiPertuan Agung and the majority of the Menteri besar are Muslims?

The political executive, the army, the police and the civil service are headed primarily by Muslims?

The propagation of Islam has the support of the federal and state governments?

The rights of the minority are also protected?

But that would hardly qualify Malaysia as an Islamic state. But as he said, Malaysia “had never been affiliated to secularism but was always driven by the fundamentals of Islam”.

What is an Islamic state? What are the fundamental principles that the Deputy Prime Minister has been so good to mention but never elaborate?
In order for the non-muslims to understand fully, these basic principles have to be clearly stated so that there should be no doubt whatever in the minds of the general population. As it is, there seems to be a divergence in perception of an “Islamic State” between the Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Some Muslim scholars defined an Islamic state as “one, which opts to conduct its affairs in accordance with the revealed guidance of Islam, which accepts the sovereignty of God in all matters, and devotes its efforts and resources to ensuring the existence of a right society living in accordance with the Will of God”.

In more specific terms,

It must be founded on Islamic ideological and practical principles

The constitution must be based on Qur'anic principles and guidelines, and no part of the constitution should be contrary to the fundamental principles of the Qur'an.

The sovereignty in practice shall be that of the Qur'an, which means that the government shall be obedient to the laws based on the fundamental principles of the Qur'an.

The temporal head must accede to the theocratic as the spiritual power is deemed to higher than the temporal.
The Islamic State should be 'democracy by consultation'.

The decision-makers and the administrators of an Islamic State should possess high standard of conduct and character.

Justice is the key to the functioning of an Islamic State.

Based on the defining characteristics above, does Malaysia fit the mould?

It is obvious that Malaysia is neither a completely secular nor an Islamic state. The constitution is still the highest law of the land.

According to Prof. Dr Shad saleem Faruqi from Universiti Teknologi Mara, it is a hybrid state.

"We walk the middle path. But this is not something we should be ashamed of. Instead, it is a pride”.
"Malaysia was always promoting Islam. In line with this, it is clear that Malaysia was never neutral on the issue of religion. But we have never emphasised on ideological purity. We are not a theocratic state”.

“The constitution is the supreme law of the nation. So, it does not permit a conclusion that we are a full-fledged Islamic state”.

For the past forty years or so, the question of whether Malaysia is an Islamic state has never been raised as it was implicitly understood that the constitution that was hammered out by the founding fathers would remain the supreme, binding contract that would ensure justice, equality and peace in the country.

Why now?

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