Malaya/Malaysia is a Secular State: Minister Jamil Baharom is Wrong

The Malaysian Insider easily refuted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datul Seri Jamil Khir Baharom who asserted simplistically (and I would venture to say, insincerely) that Malaysia is not a secular state. Re: Look Up the History Books, Malaysia is a Secular State :

“A Malaysian minister is insisting that Malaysia is not a secular state, and that is anchored in Islamist roots because there are the Malay rulers and state Islamic laws exist for Muslims. That argument might have worked if it was just Malaya…But you know what, Mr Minister, we are now in Malaysia…The reality is, of course, different. Malaysia is a secular state where the rule of law is supreme. The Federal Constitution is the basic law, not the Quran.”

I would go further and assert that the Minister’s argument won’t work even if we restrict the case just to Malaya. We only need to go back to read the Foundational Documents of the 1957 Federal Constitution at the formation of Malaya. For example, the Reid Commission states unequivocally that Malaya is a secular state:

Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957
(London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office)
Colonial No. 330

State Religion

169. We have considered the question whether there should be any statement in the Constitution to the effect that Islam should be the State religion. There was universal agreement that if any such provision were inserted it must be made clear that it would not in any way affect the civil rights of non-Muslims. In the memorandum submitted by the Alliance it was stated – “the religion of Malaysia shall be Islam. The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practicing their own religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular State.” There is nothing in the draft Constitution to affect the continuance of the present position in the States with regard to recognition of Islam or to prevent the recognition of Islam in the Federation by legislation or otherwise in any respect which does not prejudice the civil rights of individual non-Muslims. The majority of us think that it is best to leave the matter on this basis, looking to the fact that Counsel for the Rulers said to us – “It is Their Highnesses’ considered view that it would not be desirable to insert some declaration such as has been suggested that the Muslim Faith or Islamic Faith be the established religion of the Federation. Their Highnesses are not in favour of such a declaration being inserted and that is a matter of specific instruction in which I myself have played very little part.” Mr. Justice Abdul Hamid is of opinion that a declaration should be inserted in the Constitution as suggested by the Alliance and his views are set out in his note appended to this Report.

We should not miss the fact that the Sultans rejected the idea of Islam as the established religion of the Federation. Presumably, this would undermine their position and power as head of Islam in their respective States!

Shariah ideologues should remember the saying “Apa yang tersirat adalah lebih penting daripada apa yang tersurat.” Shariah ideologues also ignore the provision of Article 3 (4) which says that “Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.” Article 3 (4) is surely unequivocal in stressing the subsidiary role of Islam in matters of legislation.

For full discussion please go to my earlier two articles in the “miniblog” folder of Krisispraxis:

1) Social Contract (Part 1): Religion and Equal Citizenship. LINK
2) Social Contract (Part 2): Excerpts from Historical Documents. You can download pdf file excerpts from the Reid Commission. LINK
3) Social Contract and the Special Position of the Malays: Some Observations on the Historical Context. LINK

You may also find the other articles in the “miniblog” folder relevant to the current controversy on the secular nature of the Malayan/Malaysian Constitution: Debates on Social Contract/Multiculturalism. LINK


One thought on “Malaya/Malaysia is a Secular State: Minister Jamil Baharom is Wrong”

  1. Thanks Dr. Kam Weng for stating the facts and truth as is where is. Keep hammering away to chip away the ignorance and [unfortunately as well]the arrogance of all and sundry. I’m much encouraged reading your postings.

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