Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is Malaysia An Islamic State

Notwithstanding the constitutional and theoretical debates, Malaysia has been an Islamic state in practice ever since Independence, said the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim).Its president Yusri Mohamad said the so-called Islamisation process has not introduced any significant novelty."On the contrary, it seeks to preserve the religious practices and values of its Muslim citizens."The only ‘changes’ that have occurred are in the attitude of those who cannot accept what has already been happening for a long time," said Yusri when met at Abim headquarters yesterday.He was commenting on the strong objections expressed following the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Tuesday that Malaysia is not a secular state but an Islamic one.www.malaysiakini.comwww.malaysiakini.com"On the contrary, it seeks to preserve the religious practices and values of its Muslim citizens."The only ‘changes’ that have occurred are in the attitude of those who cannot accept what has already been happening for a long time," said Yusri when met at Abim headquarters yesterday.He was commenting on the strong objections expressed following the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Tuesday that Malaysia is not a secular state but an Islamic one.Najib said Malaysia has never been a secular nation as the government has always been driven by the fundamentals of Islam."Islam is the official religion and we are an Islamic state," Najib told reporters after he opened an international conference on the role of Islamic states in facing the challenges of Islamisation.No drastic changeThis was immediately opposed by various quarters, including BN senior partner MCA, who argued that historical facts and documents showed that Malaysia was a secular state, just as espoused in the Federal Constitution.Yusri said these quarters fail, however, to acknowledge the fact that the Muslim population in Malaysia has always been sensitive and referred to Islamic laws with regards to such issues as custody over children of mixed-marriages, claims over the deceased, and apostasy."Opposition to apostasy, for example, is not anything new or unknown to be prohibited. There has never been a situation where it has been allowed to happen without significant opposition," said Yusri."There has been no drastic change as far as Islamisation in principle is concerned," he added.In reference to the first premier Tunku Abdul Rahman, who is often cited as having called for a secular Malaysia, Yusri said the actions and practices of Tunku himself suggest that what he envisioned for Malaysia was far from what is conventionally understood as 'secular'.Tunku, who participated in the founding of the Islamic welfare and propagation organisation Perkim, had been actively involved in propagating the religion and facilitated the channeling of public funds to Islamic institutions."These are not the actions of a secular leader in a secular state. It’s very clear that his understanding of Islam’s position in the federation was far from what is secular in the conventional sense," said Yusri.On concerns that Najib’s statement would impact on the already controversial implementation of Islamic laws, Yusri said detractors of that process "pick and choose a few incidents" to paint a negative and exaggerated picture of the Islamisation process.No real fear"The implementation of Islam in Malaysia has always been autochthonous and informed by our own setting and circumstances. There is no real fear of Malaysia undergoing drastic changes on a daily basis and becoming a theocratic oppressive state," he said.That Islam as a religion informs and influences public policy in Malaysia does not automatically mean it is any less a modern state, said Yusri."An Islamic Malaysia is not the anti-thesis to our desire to be a successful modern state. On that contrary, it is one of the ingredients that can successfully bind the various elements together," he said.Yusri also said according to some scholars, Malaysia does fulfill the minimal requirements of an Islamic state in that the religion occupies a special position in the constitution, the Syariah family laws are in place, Muslims’ basic and external religious obligations are carried out, and public funds are used for Islam."It is not perfect, there’s a lot to improve upon, but just a Muslim is he who testifies he is so, we are also an Islamic state by the fulfilment of those basic requirements."