Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that MALAYSIA has never been declared a secular nation and the Federal Constitution made no mention of the word ‘secular’.
He was replying to John Fernandez, Seremban’s Member of Parliament from the DAP party (DAP-Seremban), who wanted to know if Malaysia was a secular state based on a Supreme Court decision in 1988.
Nazri said the position of Islam as a federal religion was also noted in several provisions under the Constitution, which include the development and propagation of Islam amongst Muslims and that civil courts had no jurisdiction over the powers of Syariah courts.
“There is also the oath taken by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Schedule Four to preserve Islam at all times,” he added.
Based on Article 162 of the Constitution, Nazri noted the 1988 Supreme Court’s decision in Che Omar did not declare the country as a secular nation although secular laws were used.
He also noted the words used in context of Article 162 referred to laws that were passed prior to Independence and were stated as ‘existing laws’ rather than ‘secular laws’.
This is not the first time the issue had been brought up. The members of the opposition parties had always claimed Malaysia to be a secular nation despite that in the Article 3 (1) it had been clearly stated that Islam is the Religion of the Federation.
Since the definition of secularism itself is the ‘indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations’, it is impossible to say that Malaysia is a secular country when it has already been stated in the Constitution that ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation’. Thus this is contrary to popular belief that Islam is simply the ‘official religion’ of Malaysia which it is only subject to ritual and ceremonies.
Uncle Haji Mahamad Naser Disa of the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council legal bureau and Uncle Azril Mohd Amin of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia had numerous times spoken to clarify this matter (see: Hijrah Minda: Agenda Transformasi Islam by Uncle Naser Disa). Uncle Zainul Rijal, president of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia had recently written an article on the place of Islam in the Constitution which was published in The Malaysian Bar and Utusan Malaysia.
He wrote that according to the experts of the Constitutional Law of Malaysia, there are seven main factors which formed the backbone of the Federal Constitution, the first one being Islam as the religion of the federation, and that each of them cannot be eroded from the Constitution. In fact, all of these seven factors should to be defended by all parties, be it a leader or even the ‘rakyat’ themselves. (read more here: Kedudukan Islam)
Despite this fact, the Democratic Action Party wrote in its manifesto (on the DAP Website: Vision & Mision): “DAP remains unswerving in its commitment that Malaysia shall remain as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation.” One may question why the leaders of the opposition parties insist on claiming Malaysia is a secular nation. The way I see it, this is their dirty tactics and ploys in order to achieve their goals; to dethrone Islam of its place in the federation and to declare Malaysia as a secular country like Singapore (see Sang Saka Malaya Controversy)
Thus saying, as long as the current Constitution stands without being change, Malaysia shall remain standing as an Islamic nation whether or not it agrees DAP, PAS or PKR.