Window of opportunity to defend the 46-year social contract of a secular Malaysia with Islam as official religion closing fast and in a matter of months the country may wake up after the next general election to find that it has embarked  on the irreversible road of an Islamic State with completely different concepts about citizenship, identity and sovereignty

DAP Dialogue on “Islamic State: PAS Blueprint and UMNO’s 929 Declaration”
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaMonday): Tonight’s public dialogue “Islamic State: PAS Blueprint and UMNO’s 929 Declaration”, makes history as probably being the first in the nation’s history where Malaysians of different races and religions come together to discuss the issue of Malaysia as an Islamic State. 

We have held many public meetings and dialogues in the past on a variety of issues, but tonight is the first time  there is  a general sense of unease because we have a multi-racial and multi-religious turnout and the subject of Islamic State which affects not  just politics but also religion is both sensitive and contentious, and we are all  wary of stepping on each other’s toes and sensitivities.  This is a reflection of the new escalation in the  competition between UMNO and PAS to out-Islamise each other following the recent release of the PAS Islamic State blueprint in the form of the Islamic State Document (ISD) to counter UMNO’s  “929 Declaration” that Malaysia  was already an Islamic State which was made by the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan National Delegates Conference on Sept. 29, 2001.


It would be more comfortable all round  if this  sensitive and contentious subject of whether Malaysia  is or is not, should or should not be,  an Islamic State, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS, is  discussed  separately among the Muslims and non-Muslims. We have deliberately decided to create this opportunity tonight for Malaysians of different religious faiths to come together, because this issue is going to affect  the fundamental rights of all Malaysians and future generations, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, and all Malaysians must decide together and not separately whether Malaysia is to make the tectonic shift in nation-building to abandon the 46-year social contract and the  constitutional fundamentals of a secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion to become an Islamic State.


If Malaysians of different races and religions cannot discuss and decide this issue together, but must do so in different ethnic and religious compartments, then the nation is heading for stormy waters for any decision to embark Malaysia on the road of an Islamic state will then be a recipe not for greater national harmony and unity but the exact reverse – with increasing dissension and division in the passage of time with the introduction of a new  dichotomy between Muslims and non-Muslims super-added on  the existing segregation of Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras.


If Malaysians are one people, and the objective of a Bangsa Malaysia of Vision 2020 is not a mere empty slogan, then Malaysians regardless of race and religion must be able to discuss the important issue whether Malaysia is or is not, should or should not be, an Islamic State in an open, rational  and democratic environment,  able to disagree with  but respect dissenting views and standpoints.  In fact, this will be a grave test of the maturity of both nation-building and democracy in Malaysia.


This is urgent and imperative because the window of opportunity to defend the 46-year social contract of a secular Malaysia with Islam as official religion is closing and closing fast, and what is left is only  a matter of months as the country may wake up after the next general election to find that it has embarked on the irreversible road of an Islamic State with completely different concepts about citizenship, identity and sovereignty.


Such a window of opportunity would be closed  if the Barisan Nasional is able to win the next general election with a landslide victory using the PAS’ Islamic State blueprint to frighten and terrorise the electorate, particularly the non-Muslim voters,  into believing  that the only way to forestall  the “extremist, fanatical, Taliban-type of Islamic State” of PAS is to give unequivocal and categorical support for  the “moderate, status quo-type” of UMNO’s Islamic State in its “929 Declaration”.


When that happens, what had been the mainstream nation-building agenda  for over four decades – that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State -  would not only be marginalized but  could easily be regarded as “anti-national” in fomenting inter-racial dissension, inter-religious unrest and national  disunity after the national consensus in the general election that Malaysia is an Islamic State – though of the UMNO definition - and those who still advocate it would be fit subjects for Internal Security Act detention-without-trial in the national interest.


Already the voices of Muslim Malaysian leaders s that Malaysia was never conceived to be an Islamic State, which had been publicly articulated by the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, and even by the fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir for the first 20 years of his 22-year premiership from 1981 to 2001 (until   he changed his stand in  his final two years with the “929 Declaration”) had fallen silent – for fear of being tarred with the brush of being unIslamic  and therefore a traitor to the Malay race and Islamic religion.


Will the voices of non-Muslim Malaysians to defend and uphold the 46-year social contract and constitutional bedrock of a secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion be similarly silenced after the next general election because  the risk of being branded anti-Islam and a traitor of the  Islamic State?


The time has come for Malaysians, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to discuss and debate this grave and important issue of whether Malaysia is or is not, should or should not be, an Islamic State, together as fellow citizens of the Malaysian nation  and as one people.


But firstly, there must be a clear understanding on two key matters.  Firstly, that  defending and upholding  a secular Malaysia is not advocating for a Malaysia which is anti-god, anti-religion or anti-Islam or the term “secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion” would be meaningless.  A “secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion” in the context of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the 1970 Rukunegara with the first principle of “Belief in God” clearly means a morality-based polity which is informed by the common universal values of the great religions to be found in Malaysia, with Islam as the oiffical religion but without any single religion dominating  the arena of national politics to the exclusion of other faiths.


Secondly, opposition to an Islamic State is not being anti-Malay or anti-Islam, but simply because of objection to a religious state – whether it be Islamic State, Christian State State, Hindu State or Buddhist State – just as Muslims would object to any religious state based on other religions which would introduce  two classes of citizenship based purely on religious faith.


After the “929 Declaration”,  not only UMNO but even Gerakan and MCA leaders have taken the stand that Malaysia as an Islamic State is an indisputable fact.  When did Malaysia make the transition from a “secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion” to an Islamic State?  Is it purely on the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “929 Declaration” of one person, albeit Prime Minister – going against the social contract, constitutional history and all judicial pronouncements?


Equally disconcerting is the premise  that an Islamic State is obligatory for Muslims and that Muslims are failing in their duties to their faith if they do not subscribe to the Islamic State concept.  Isn’t this purely an interpretation of the Quranic injunctions as to whether an Islamic State is obligatory for Muslims?


The Islamic State Document of PAS, for instance, holds that an Islamic State  is obligatory for all Muslims as it is ordained by Allah,  giving several quotations from the Quran, including the following:


“If any do fail to judge By (the light of) what Allah

Hath revealed, they are (No better than) Unbelievers.”


                               -Surah Al-Ma’idah : 44

The leader of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation,  Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) with  some 40 million supporters, Abdulrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), who was formerly Indonesian President, was asked  early this year about the same Surah but he held that an Islamic State was not obligatory for Muslims.


The  Lembaga Dakwah Nahdlatul Ulama website,, gives Wahid’s position on the Islamic State and this Surah as follows:

“Salah sebuah pertanyaan dalam dialog interaktif itu adalah kutipan Al Qur’an ‘Barang siapa tidak (ber) pendapat hukum dengan apa yang diturunkan Allah, mereka adalah orang yang kafir’“ (Wa Man lam Yahkum Bima Anzala Allah Fa-hula Ika Hum al-Kafirun). Lalu bagaimana mungkin kita menjalankan hukum Allah, tanpa NI? Jawabnya, karena ada masyarakat yang menerapkan hal itu, dan, atau mendidik kita agar melaksanakan hukum Allah, maka negara dapat saja ditinggalkan. Untuk memelihara pluralitas bangsa, tidak ada kewajiban mendirikan NI atau menentang mereka yang menentang adanya gagasan mendirikan NI. Netralitas seperti inilah yang sebenarnya jadi pandangan Islam dalam soal wajib adanya gagasan mendirikan NI.

“Netralitas ini sangat penting untuk di junjung tinggi, karena hanya dengan demikian sebuah negara kesatuan Republik Indonesia dapat didirikan. Dengan gagasan mendirikan NI, maka pihak minoritas -baik minoritas agama maupun minoritas lain-lainnya-, tidak mau berada dalam sebuah negara dan menjadi bagian dari negara tersebut. Dengan demikian, yang dinamakan Republik Indonesia tidak dapat diwujudkan, karena ketidaksediaan tersebut.”

In fact, Gus Dur’s response was the same as that given by the Mursyidul Am PAS Dato’  Nik Aziz Nik Mat  in a dialogue with the Conference of Churches in Malaysia in Petaling Jaya  in May 2000 where he gave the assurance  that PAS believed not in an Islamic state (negara Islam) but in an Islamic community (masyarakat Islam), accepting the more limited role of the Islamic religion in a democratic plural country, especially with a non-Muslim population of just under half its 22 million people. 

However, Nik Aziz and the PAS leaders did not keep their word and have  now come out with an Islamic State blueprint in the escalating competition with UMNO to out-Islamise one another to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State.

DAP cannot accept the contention of the PAS leaders that they are not advocating a theocratic form of government on the ground that the  PAS Islamic State will not be ruled by  a priestly order, as that is only one of the definitions of theocracy, which means a species of government which claims to be immediately directed by God.  In any event, the head of PAS Dewan Ulama, Haron Taib, has spelt out in “Model Kerajaan Islam (p.43):

“Golongan ulama bukan sekadar menjadi penasihat kepada Negara atau kerajaan, tetapi mereka adalah pemegang polisi dan pelaksana kepada dasar Negara.”

DAP has made clear our objection ot the PAS Islamic State blueprint as violating the 46-year social contract and 1957 Merdeka Constitution, a breach of the 1999 Barisan Alternative common manifesto “Towards A Just Malaysia”, incompatible with democracy, human rights, women rights and plural society in Malaysia.

At a  PAS Melaka forum in June 2000, I had asked whether the Political Islam of PAS is compatible with democracy, or whether it believed only in “one man, one vote, one time” and will use electoral politics to “hijack democracy” as power-sharing was just the strategy and mechanism to achieve the ultimate objective, the establishment of an Islamic State, which would be irreversible.

I was  not being cynical or facetious  as some thought but was very serious – for the question the advocates of Islamic State or any religious state must answer is whether they would countenance the  change of such a system of government.  If apostasy is regarded  by PAS as “warring” against Allah and must entail the capital punishment of death penalty, wouldn’t any proposal to change the  Islamic State to other forms of government be  regarded as an even greater “war” on Allah, which is  completely unacceptable and must entail even harsher punishments?

In the next election in the next few months, there is no chance of PAS putting its Islamic State blueprint into practice because the battle in the next election is still the perennial one of the Opposition seeking to end the Barisan Nasional political hegemony by denying it two-thirds parliamentary majority, and nobody expects the Barisan Nasional to be toppled from federal power.  In fact, Barisan Nasional leaders are talking about a bigger parliamentary majority than the 1999 general election.

However, the PAS Islamic State blueprint is a “god-send” to UMNO and Barisan Nasional to frighten and terrorise the voters, particularly non-Malays, to make the false choice between the “extremist, Taliban-type” Islamic state of PAS and the “moderate” Islamic State of UMNO – when the first choice of all Malaysians should be to uphold and defend what had never been disputed in the first four decades of nationhood, a secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State as conceived and contracted by the forefathers of the major communities during the attainment of independent nationhood in 1957.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman