DAP calls for a high-level task force comprising political leaders from the government and opposition as well as veteran diplomats to make recommendations as to how Malaysia can project her multi-religious image and identity in her foreign policy and at international forums

when launching the DAP’s 46th National Day Celebrations and the  “Defend Secular Malaysia” campaign at the Farlim market, Paya Terubong
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangTuesday): Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said in an interview ahead of the 10th Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Putrajaya on October 16-18 that Malaysia has ably put across its views on Islam in the international arena reflecting its determination to protect the interests of the religion. (Sept. 1, 2003) 

This raises the question as to whether the government has in international forums also “ably put across” its views on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism as the “social contract”, the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, the 1970 Rukunegara and the 1991 Vision 2020 have made it crystal clear that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious nation. 

Cabinet and Parliament should give serious consideration as to how Malaysia can reflect her multi-religious uniqueness and characteristics in her foreign policy and at international fora, as according to the 2000 Census,  the religions of Malaysia’s 23.2 million population comprise  Muslims  60.4%, Buddhists 19.2%, Christians 9.1%, Hindus  6.3%, Confucianists/Taoists  2.6%, Tribal/folk religion 0.8%, Others 0.4%, No Religion 0.8% and Unknown 0.3%. 

The Cabinet or Parliament should set up a special task comprising veteran diplomats and political leaders from ruling parties and the opposition to recommend concrete measures as to how Malaysia could project a multi-religious image in her foreign policy and image reflecting Malaysia’s religious diversity. 

It is a matter of grave concern that there seems to be efforts to use Malaysia’s  hosting of OIC Summit to claim or justify Malaysia as an Islamic State which is against the “social contract”, the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, the 1970 Rukunegara and the 1991 Vision 2020, and all such attempts should stop. 

Recently, there was the argument at the Gerakan 32nd National Delegates Conference that  the world had recognized Malaysia as an Islamic State since the “929 Declaration”  by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan National Delegates Conference on Sept. 29, 2001, and this was why Malaysia was asked to organize the OIC  Summit  next month. 

This is wrong, as there is no  pre-condition for a country  hosting an OIC Summit to be an Islamic state.  The  OIC Summit also does not make the host country an Islamic State,   just as Senegal’s hosting of the 6th OIC Summit in Dakar in December 1991  had not affected its constitutional position as a “secular republic” despite having  94 per cent  Senegalese belonging to the Muslim faith.

Many OIC countries, like Turkey, Mali, Indonesia, Guinea, Niger and Saddam’s Iraq, had  organized important OIC conferences but this had not affected their status as a secular state and not an Islamic state.

If leadership role in the OIC makes the country concerned an Islamic State, then Malaysia would have already become an Islamic State in 1971 when Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first OIC Secretary-General.  But this was not the case, as Tunku publicly called on the Barisan Nasional leaders and Malaysians at his 80th birthday celebrations dinner on 8th February 1983 “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State”.

Just as Tunku’s becoming the first Secretary-General of OIC did  not make Malaysia an Islamic State, similarly Malaysia’s hosting of the 10th OIC Summit next month will  not make Malaysia an Islamic State.  Whether Malaysia is an Islamic State does not depend on international recognition or membership of OIC, but whether the Malaysian people want it to become an Islamic State and whether it is compatible with the Constitution.

What is most significant is that the Charter of the OIC adopted in 1972 made no mention whatsoever of an Islamic State.

In the  OIC, there   many member countries which have  populations with  overwhelming Muslim majorities  but which are secular and not Islamic states like Indonesia with 88% Muslim population of  203 million people and  Turkey with 99.8% Muslim population with 67 million people.

OIC has also members which can never be Islamic states because of their Muslim-minority  populations, and  countries with Muslims   20 per cent or  less  in their populations include  Cameroon,  Mozambique and Suriname (20%),  Uganda (16%), Guyana (15%),  Togo (12%) and  Gabon (1%)

If countries with Muslim population ranging from 1% to 20% are also members of the OIC, how could any country claim that hosting an OIC summit or membership of OIC  qualifies it  to be  an Islamic State?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman