Kit Siang: Malaysia is Secular, Not an Islamic Country

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Lim Kit Siang presented a spirited declaration of a secular Malaysia in Sydney last night while imploring a standing-room-only crowd to help a country reborn to “reset its nation-building policies.”

Ahmad Zamzahuri

“Malaysia is undoubtedly a secular nation” by any reading of the Federal Constitution, the 77-year-old Iskandar Puteri MP said, to thunderous applause.

The event, billed ‘Looking for New Malaysia 61 Years After Merdeka’, was organised by Bersih Sydney.

The two-hour session also featured Lim’s political secretary, Syahredzan Johan, the former Bar Council committee chair and constitutional expert, and newly-elected Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi.

The DAP entourage sat on a panel that included Bersih Sydney chair Mathuri Santhi-Morgan, with the forum moderated by the organisation’s secretary Jason Goh.

Both Lim and Syahredzan pointed to the first three prime ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak Hussein and Hussein Onn, all of whom had declared that Malaysia “is not an Islamic state.”

Neither is it an “Islamic theocracy”, Lim said, although the Islamist party PAS would like to see such a theocracy – in which all legislative authority derives from one particular religion, whose leaders claim a divine right to rule – come to pass.

Earlier yesterday, Lim told this writer: “PAS actually does not believe in the Malaysian constitution, but they will never admit it. They mask their attitude to the constitution in policy.”

Syahredzan was asked at the forum if ‘New Malaysia’ was finally ready to bring constitutional clarity to the ongoing ‘Islamic state versus secular nation’ debate. The lawyer and constitutional scholar unequivocally declared, “My answer to that question is, the question should not arise at all, ever.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Malaysia is a secular state. A secular state is not a state that is anti-religion. Every secular nation defines secularism in its own way. 

“Likewise, Malaysia’s secular status is its own brand. The spirit of the constitution clearly stands for a secular nation, in which Islam is the ‘religion of the federation’. Malaysia cannot be an Islamic state because the laws of the constitution are supreme over all other laws.”

However, said Syahredzan, “The lines are blurring between politics and religion, and the issue of the growing role of religion is a big concern of government, and even after Malaysia Baru, we are seeing more of this.” – Malaysiakini