by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP National Publicity Secretary
On Tuesday, 24 September 2002
in Petaling Jaya
Malaysia should not be viewed as an Islamic State and such flawed view should be debunked as it undermines the rightful image of Malaysia in the international
The September 11 terrorist attacks last year, which focused attention on the insurgency of Islamic militancy, had the unfortunate consequence of placing the religion of Islam as well as Islamic countries in a negative light.
Following the unilateral and unconstitutional declaration by the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad without parliamentary sanction that Malaysia is an Islamic State, the country had been falsely viewed in the eyes of some as being associated with Islamic militant elements.
We note that the pronouncement of Malaysia as an Islamic state has resulted in the country being placed on the US Government's blacklist of countries deemed to pose a threat to US national security. This has created difficulty for Malaysians in obtaining speedy visa approval for entry into the US as well as given rise to incidents of Malaysian citizens being searched and interrogated by US immigration officers.
Remove Malaysia from the blacklist
The recent refusal of the US Government to issue visas to 150 Malaysian students to continue their studies in the US bears testimony to the flawed perception of Malaysians as violent and militant when in fact we are peace-loving citizens and also serves to further aggravate the current situation.
It was reported today that the Canadian authority has started to impose visa requirements for Malaysians and the Saudis for similar concern.
We hope that the US Governments could shed its false notion of Malaysia and relax its stringent visa rules imposed on our students and citizens, including removing the country from its blacklist. We also hope that the Canadian authority would not impose visa requirements on Malaysians.
It is clear by now that labelling Malaysia as an Islamic States, rightly or wrongly, has many negative consequences. Such a flawed view should be debunked as it undermines the rightful image of Malaysia in the international community.
It may be true that Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not consult any of his cabinet ministers, let alone the parliament before making such declaration. And he did say that he has no intention to amend the Constitution to effect a change. But no Malaysians should take this declaration lightly as the overzealous lot were already making full use of the declaration as a green light to speed up the process of turning Malaysia into an Islamic State, by introducing more and more lslamic laws, institutions and regulations. And no one can possibly stop the successors of Dr Mahathir to amend the Constitution for the purpose of labelling Malaysia as an Islamic State officially under greater political pressure in times to come.
The two-day seminar titled "Understand Malaysia as an Islamic State" (Memahami Malayisa sebagai sebuah negara Islam) organised by IKIM, INMIND and the Selangor State Government from 17 to 18 September, 2002 in Shah Alam should served as a real warning to those who think that the "929 declaration" bears nothing more than a personal statement of Mahathir Mohamad, who is about to leave the government by October 2003.
In his opening address, Nahathir Mohamad argued that the majority of the Muslim population in Malaysia and the world have accepted Malaysia as an Islamic State. He also argued that all that could be implemented in an Islamic State have been implemented by his government. He even went one step further to claim that Malaysia is seen as a role model of Islamic State by many countries.
During the 15-miniute question and answer session, I pointed to Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia is a multiracial, multireligious, free and democratic state and should be remain so. To strengthen my argument, I quoted two paragraphs from the "No to 929" booklet written by the DAP National Chairman Lim kit Siang, which reads.
"When Malaya and later Malaysia was founded there was a social contract among the different races and religions on the type of constitution the country shall be governed by. Such social contract was then enshrined in our Constitution and cannot be changed without consultation and consent of all the communities that make up Malaysia.
"Both the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1956-1957 (commonly known as the Reid Commission) and the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 1962(commonly known as the Cobbold Commission) had reported that the position of Islam being the the religion of the Federation shall not imply that Malaya and Malaysia is not a secular state. In other words, Malaya and Malaysia is a secular state. The Reid Commission is the body that framed and drafted the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya after consulting all the communities of Malaya while the Cobbold Commission was formed to seek the views of the communities in Sabah and Sarawak."
In his reply, he said that the minority groups (which the PM accuses of trying to divide Muslims and create chaos) have no mandate to determine or question whether Malaysia is an Islamic country or otherwise. He accused that Lim Kit Siang refused to accept Malaysia as an Islamic State because he is politically bankrupt. He claimed that the DAP would use the issue to attack MCA for willing to work with UMNO, who also wants an Islamic State.
He also argued that the Reid Commission, which drew up the Federal Constitution, did not state that Malaysia was an Islamic nation, as they had no idea, at that time, what such a nation constituted. He said Reid and Cobbold only knew (then) that a multiracial and multi-religious society could only exist in a secular state. He then gave Spain as an example, saying that Spain was once under the rule of Muslims (and therefore seen as an Islamic State) and other people of different faiths could practice their own religions. He further argued that Malaysia's status as an Islamic country is based on the accepted interpretation that Islam is the official religion.
The example was made of England being recognised as part of Christendom after it accepted the Anglican Church as its official religion. He reiterates that the declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state does not require any amendment to the Federal Constitution or the creation of specific laws, and there should be no controversy when he made the Islamic State declaration (a fact accepted by all), as the Government does not intend to change anything.
I stood up again to point out to him that his 929 declaration should be deemed as his personal opinion, since he has done it without the consent of his cabinet members nor the sanction of the Parliament. I pointed to him that it was not correct for him to declare Malaysia as an Islamic State as such declaration can only bring confusion and negative consequences to Malaysia, although I do understand that he was doing it in response to the pressure mounted by certain political groups.
To my second question and comment, he replied that what was usually uttered as a personal view always turns out to be accepted by many people, such as the Proton Saga. He then indicated that his time was up and he would not answer anymore question. Yes, what Dr Mahathir Mohamad uttered usually accepted by all those spineless politicians under him. This is precisely where the danger lies. Will Dr Mahathir Mohamad then go on to declare that his government has got the mandate from the people to turn Malaysia into a real Islamic State immediately after winning the next general elections? I bet he will. And the entire process will be carried out dutifully by the overzealous lot working in various government bodies and institutions.
Earlier, the IKIM Director, Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji stated that IKIM would produce a book entitled "Mengenali Malaysia Sebagai Sebuah Negara Islam " for the reference of the Malaysian public. According to him, IKIM is in the process of grooming a group of experts comprising professionals and academicians who will research and explain the facts proving the characteristics of Malaysia as an Islamic State. The purpose of the setting up of the group was to convey a wider understanding concerning the statement that Malaysia is an Islamic State. What Ahmad Sarji did not confess to the public is that IKIM is also in the process of recommending specific policies to turn Malaysia into a real Islamic State eventually.
The Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Dr. Mohd Khir Toyo, in his speech, explained that Dr. Mahathir had made the Islamic State announcement on 9/29 (after 9/11) in order to restore the image of Islam and the ummah after the religion and its adherents had been undermined by a terrorist image as a result of the 9/11 attacks. He praised the Prime Minister for his boldness in making the declaration and said that it is time we stop being apologetical about Malaysia's status as an Islamic State since Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, which provides for Islam as the official religion of the country, puts the issue beyond doubt. Judging from what Khir Toyo has said, he has failed to understand the negative consequences of calling Malaysia an Islamic State. It was also incorrect to call Malaysia an Islamic State simply because Islam is the official religion. His argument only reflects his shallowness as far as the concept of Islamic State is concerned.
Khir Toyo also lambasted the DAP for campaigning everywhere opposing the 9/29 Declaration. Our answer to Khir Toyo and other BN government leaders is very simple: the DAP will continue to say no to 929 until each and every Malaysian understands the importance of preserving Malaysia as a free, democratic and multireligious country. It is our legitimate right to highlight the misconception of the Prime Minister and Datuk Chor Chee Heung, the deputy Home Affairs Minister is correct to say that the "No to 929" campaign is not seditious in his reply to DAP Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai, who is also the head of the DAP "No to 929" Campaign Committee.