Defend A free, democratic and secular Malaysia

at the "Islamic State: UMNO's 929 Declaration Vs Pas' ISD" dialogue
Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Malaysia is a multiracial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country. Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State.All other religions can be practiced freely by followers of  other faiths. Malaysia is a democratic monarchy with a parliamentary system. We are governed by the Federal Constitution, not by any religious scriptures.

55% of Malaysians were Muslims does not add up to an Islamic State. Indonesia, where 88% of its population were Muslims (having the world's biggest Muslim population), is not an Islamic state. As a member of OIC does not automatically make one an Islamic State as non-Islamic states like Indonesia, Turkey and Iraq could also be a member of OIC.

Why Malaysians should be wary of an Islamic State?

With due respect to my Muslim friends and country mates, I believe some of them truly believe Islam is the answer and Islamic State is a welfare state that takes care of every citizen in the country, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims.

But we have many reasons to be wary about the concept of Islamic State. There is no role model of Islamic State in the world and there is no fixed definition on the concept of Islamic State. There is no real authority in this case. With due respect to Tog Guru Nik Aziz and Tun Mahathir Mohamad, I'm afraid they would not agree with each other on the issue of authority
on the concept of Islamic State.

Please pardon me if I may say this tonight, there is no real authority on the concept of Islamic State. You cannot find a blueprint on the concept of Islamic State that was endorsed and agreed upon by all the Islamic scholars from different schools of thought.

There are so many different practices among the so-called Islamic States. While a Muslim woman can become the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but a woman in Saudi Arabia cannot even be allowed to drive a car and leave her home without a companion. I do not know of any Pas or UMNO leaders who regard The Afghanistan under the Talibans as an Islamic State. But our friends in the MCA and Gerakan were telling the Malaysian Chinese that Pas is planning to build a Taliban type of Islamic State in Malaysia.

So, when we talk about Islamic State, we must be very clear about what we are saying.

 From what we have gathered so far, in a typical Islamic State,

  • Al Quran and Sunnah will be the guiding principles of law and order. Everything else, including the Federal Constitution, will be subservient to Islamic teachings and principles
  • It is not compatible with democracy and human rights in the modern context

If Malaysia becomes an Islamic State one day, Muslims and Non-Muslims will be governed under two different sets of laws. This would immediately create a great confusion among the people. There will be too much of gray areas. This would not be healthy and good for the country and the citizens in the long run.

The Muslims will be protected in an Islamic State. But what the non-Muslims want is more than just protection. They want equality and liberty. And also democracy.


UMNO's 929 Declaration

.     On Sept 29 2001, former PM Tun Mahathir Mohamad announced in the Gerakan national conference that Malaysia is already an Islamic State. Ulamas in UMNO took the cues and soon after the 929 Declaration, they have embarked on several programs and launched several documents and booklets (such as Malaysia adalah sebuah Negara Islam) 5 to turn Malaysia into a real Islamic State "step by step" , without making any amendment to the Federal Constitution. The BN government had retracted the booklet only after vociferous objection and criticism from the DAP.

  • The BN government has also sent Islamic scholars to Middle East countries to study Islamic State systems, besides getting other Islamic scholars to endorse Malaysia as a true Islamic State. So far, no leading Islamic scholars have come forward to endorse Malaysia simply because Malaysia is not yet an Islamic State
  • One may even argue that UMNO has the upper hand in turning Malaysia into an Islamic State compare to Pas because they hold the Federal power
  • Under the influence of the 929 Declaration, overzealous BN government leaders and officials have since trying to make the following Islamisation policies and measures to turn Malaysia into a real Islamic State:
    • In Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, young lovers found holding hands in the parks were slapped with heavy summonses. RM 300 each.
    • In Selangor, coffee shops and restaurants were not allowed to display signboards with beer and liquor logos. After much protest from the DAP, they were now allowed to display only "One signboard with one beer or liquor logo".
    • In Johor Bahru, a letter of consent must be obtained from Muslim neighbors before one can get a dog license.
    • Churches and missionary schools were asked to remove their crosses and Christian symbols from their buildings
    • Students were forced to listen to Islamic prayers in morning assemblies
    • History textbooks for secondary schools were amended. Topics on other religions and civilizations were dropped and replaced by Islamic civilization
    • More and more Indian temples were demolished by the authorities without justification
    • In Kajang, hawkers were banned from selling pork in open air markets
    • In most parts of Shah Alam, bak kut teh stalls were not allowed
    • Also in Shah Alam, the Catholic church is yet to get a green light to proceed with the building after more than 15 years
    • UIA students were forced to wear tudung Fong Po Kuan exposed the practice
    • In Sabah, bible written in Malay was banned for distribution among the Ibans
    • Towards the last Parliamentary sitting, Nor Omar ( BN Tanjung Karang), who's also the Parliamentary Secretary of the PM Department called DAP leaders as Kafir Harbi, MCA leaders as Kafir Zimmi. These terms were only used in war times, where Kafir Harbi were belligerent infidels who fight with the Muslims rulers and could be killed as enemies.
    • When Malaysia played host to OIC in October 2003, the BN government once again deliberately trying to earn an Islamic State label for Malaysia

The DAP has managed to block some (but not all) of these Islamisation policies and measures so far. We may not be able to do that anymore if the DAP does not succeed in winning more seats in the coming general election.

Pas' Islamic State Document

On November 12, Pas upped the ante in the Islamic State race by launching its Islamic State Document. The Document basically outlined an Islamic State model in general and guaranteed some freedoms and rights for the
non-Muslims in the country.

DAP finds the Document incompatible with democratic and human rights principles in modern context. We were very concerned about the dichotomy, where Malaysians will be divided into Muslims and Non-Muslims, and subjected to two different sets of laws.

It's in our humble view that Malaysia should remain as a democratic, free and secular state, where Islam is the official religion but all other religions can be practiced freely by the followers.

To each its own. It's sound and fundamental to separate the doctrines of religion from the state's administration. But religious values which are universal should be manifested in all national policies and nation-building process.

Why did DAP cooperated with Pas in Barisan Alternative in 1999?

The Reformasi movement erupted after the sacking of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim marked a sea change in Malaysian politics and has certainly provided an opportunity to break the political hegemony of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

DAP teamed up 6 with Keadilan, Pas and PRM in 1999 to break the BN's political hegemony and hoping to create a just Malaysia. It has nothing to do with helping Pas to form an Islamic State as wrongly claimed by MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP and other BN component parties. In the BA joint manifesto, there was no mention of Islamic State as an objective.

We broke away from the BA and Pas on Sept 22, 2001 simply because Pas was expressing its plan to form an Islamic State after gaining the Federal power. This had made the BA untenable. And DAP, as a responsible political party, did not hang on for political expediency but courageously separate itself from the BA and Pas purely on political beliefs and principles.

MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP made a 180 degrees turn by supporting Islamic State a la UMNO

MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP leaders used to attacked and accused DAP for supporting Islamic State for past general elections. They were deadly against Islamic State until Mahathir's 929 Declaration. They overnight became the apologists to Islamic State a la UMNO, and unashamedly labeled UMNO's Islamic State with oxymoron such as "secular Islamic State" or " Islamic secular State". MCA had even conducted a closed door meeting with church leaders to explain its stand. The participants were told not to disclose anything after the secret meeting.

Although BN component parties have all become the apologists for UMNO's Islamic State, they have no other issues to attack DAP but resort to dirty tactics such as throwing lies and accusations against the DAP.

In the coming general election campaign, we would not be surprise to see BN parties going all out in the BN controlled media to accuse DAP for still working with Pas secretly, assisting Pas to set up an extremist form of Islamic State.

The greatest crisis lies ahead of all Malaysians would be: If BN won the next general elections with a lopsided two-third majority, they would certainly use it as a mandate to justify its actions, slowly and surely turning Malaysia into a real Islamic State. No one can stop BN from making amendments to the Federal Constitution with its two-third majority in the  parliament. No one from the MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP would dare to vote against it.

"Do not turn Malaysia into an Islamic State", the late Tunku Abdul Rahman advised all Malaysians in 1985 at his 80th birthday party hosted by the Barisan Nasional.  Tunku's advice was supported by the late Tun Hussein Onn and the then DPM Datuk Musa Hitam the next day.

We call on all Malaysians to heed the advice of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Al Haj Putra. We urge all Malaysians to uphold our Federal Constitution. We respect Islam as the official religion of the country. But Malaysia should always remain as a democratic, free and secular state.

We are the only political party in the country to say no to Islamic State. Vote DAP to defend a democratic, free and secular Malaysia.

We have successfully defeat the BN's assimilation cultural policy with the support of the people since our inception in 1966.We also managed to achieve considerable liberalization with the support of the people. We now need your strong and undivided in the crucial coming general election. We need your votes as a mandate to prevent Malaysia from becoming an Islamic State. Every vote counts. Your vote can make a difference.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary and Selangor state chairman