Is Malaysia an Islamic State?

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The Malaysian Bar

Is Malaysia an Islamic State?
Thursday, 17 November 2005 05:00PM

IS MALAYSIA AN ISLAMIC STATE?by ©Tommy ThomasA.
INTRODUCTION
- On 29th September 2001, during his Opening Address to the Gerakan Party’s 30th national delegates conference, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed announced:“UMNO wishes to state loudly that Malaysia is an Islamic country. This is based on the opinion of ulamaks who had clarified what constituted as Islamic country. If Malaysia is not an Islamic country because it does not implement the hudud, then there are no Islamic countries in the world. If UMNO

says that Malaysia is an Islamic country, it is because in an Islamic country non-Muslims have specific rights. This is in line with the teachings of Islam. There is no compulsion in Islam. And Islam does not like chaos that may come about if Islamic laws are enforced on non-Muslims.1

- The response was immediate and furious. The spiritual leader of PAS and the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, Dato Nik Aziz replied:“You can talk all you want. You can declare a piece of wood to be gold, or a wheelbarrow as a Mercedez, but in reality, nothing has changed.For us, an Islamic country is one which is governed according to the tenets of the Quran and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammed). Malaysia is a secular State. If the present Malaysia is already an Islamic state, then what do you call the state ruled by Prophet Muhammed and his friends?2 ” The other major opposition party, DAP, also criticized the announcement in trenchant terms and sought an urgent debate in Parliament on the whole subject.3 Paradoxically, Dr Mahathir’s unilateral announcement was attacked with equal vigour from both sides of the political divide in Malaysia: PAS, as protector of the Islamic cause, and DAP, as articulating the non-Muslim voice. - I propose in this paper to consider the issue from a constitutional perspective. How does the supreme law of the land deal with the question: is Malaysia an Islamic State? It is critical when considering the constitutional position to examine the manner in which Malaya secured Merdeka on 31st August 1957, and how the Federal Constitution came to be adopted. The evolution of a national constitution usually reflects the birth of a new nation. As Malaya shook off the shackles of colonialism in 1957, its emergence into national sovereignty and statehood among the community of nations was proclaimed with the simultaneous promulgation of the Merdeka Constitution. The road to independence and the making of our Constitution are the places to start.B.

THE ROAD TO MERDEKA
- The Japanese landing in Kota Bahru on 7th December 1941, the abject surrender by the British in February 1942, the brutality of Japanese rule, the chaotic post-war conditions and the arrogant resumption of colonial power by Britain in September 1945 laid the seeds of political awakening of the indigenous Malays. The high-handed treatment in surreptitious circumstances of the Malay Rulers by Sir Harold MacMichael which led to the establishment of the Malayan Union in 1946 saw the birth of the first pan-Malay national movement through the establishment of UMNO in 1946. As a result of the intense opposition by the Malays and very lukewarm interest of the non-Malays, the concept of the Malayan Union was never implemented, and in 1948 was replaced by the Federation of Malaya Agreement. - The 1948 Agreement was the product of a Working Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Malcolm MacDonald, the first Governor-General of the Malayan Union, with representatives from the Malay Rulers, UMNO and the other communities. The Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 set up a Federal Government in Kuala Lumpur under the British High Commissioner and a Federal Legislative Council in which the major races were represented. At the beginning of 1952, a temporary alliance between the SelangorState branch of the MCA and the Kuala Lumpur branch of UMNO was brokered by Tun...
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