On the Secular State Debate: G-25 Responds to Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Multiculturalism and Secularism – The Debate Continues

Earlier debate: Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder

On the secular state debate: A response to Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil — G25 Malaysia

Malaymail Online 27 Jan 2020

JANUARY 27 — In his article in Berita Harian on January 19, 2020, Dr Mohamed Azam called out the G25 for claiming that Malaysia is a secular state. In doing so, he referred to G25’s recently-released report on the ‘Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam’ and challenged the position that Malaysia is a secular state, based on three main arguments.

1. First, he asserts that the Federal Constitution does not contain, or make any reference to, the word ‘secular’, and in fact, it is only the religion of Islam that is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. In light of this, he argues, the characterisation of Malaysia as a secular state is ‘inaccurate’.

2. This leads to his second argument: that Articles 3(1) and 12(2) places Islam in a ‘special’ position in Malaysia’s constitutional order, in spite of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s assurances that including Article 3(1) in the Constitution does not alter the secular character of the state. He also posits that if anything, the presence of Article 3(1) favours those who argue that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

3. Finally, Dr Mohamed Azam justifies his position by referring to the then Supreme Court decision in Che Omar bin Che Soh, the High Court decision in Meor Atiqulrahman, as well as various scholarly opinions.

While Dr Mohamed Azam is entitled to his academic opinion, we wish to point out that his arguments are flawed for a number of reasons. Continue reading “On the Secular State Debate: G-25 Responds to Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil”

A Startling Epiphany on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

I have been struck by a startling epiphany – I need to surrender all my grudges against Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (MM) to God. Judgment belongs to God (who thankfully, is also a God of mercies). My present job is to forgive MM and pray for his welfare.

What a great contrast to my former animosity towards MM as he was implementing policies that discriminated against the minority communities, and coopting and corrupting our democratic institutions. Alas, I yielded to temptation and began to harbored wicked thoughts for him. Continue reading “A Startling Epiphany on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad”

God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4

Calvinism & Spiritual Foundation of Society

Earlier Posts:
John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4
John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

As the full implications of Calvin’s social theology unfolded in later historical developments, the perception of Calvin changed: Calvin the social conservative and an enemy of social freedom became Calvin the constructive reformer. /1/ Michael Walzer goes further to characterize Calvin not as a theologian but as an ideologist. First, Calvin developed a new radical psychology which transforms traditionally passive private citizens into activists who saw themselves as divine instruments for social transformation. Walzer refers to the Calvinist puritans as the earliest form of political radicals who developed his social vision into a revolutionary ideology. /2/ Walzer elaborates, “Calvinism taught previously passive men the styles and methods of political activity and enabled them successfully to claim participation in that ongoing system of political action that is the modern state.” Continue reading “God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4”

John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

Calvin Refusing The Lord’s Supper To The Libertines, In St. peter’s cathedral, Geneva.

John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4

Inevitably, tension can arise between the church and the civil order, especially when kings and magistrates abuse their power and the state poses obstacles to genuine holiness. How should the church respond? Should the church meekly comply, or engage in passive resistance or even actively rebel to overthrow an oppressive government? In response to such tension, Calvin’s political realism is evident.

But it is the example of all ages that some princes are careless about all those things to which they ought to have given heed, and, far from all care, lazily take their pleasure. Others, intent upon their own business, put up for sales laws, privileges, judgments, and letters of favor. Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largesse. Still others exercise sheer robbery, plundering houses, raping virgins and matrons, and slaughtering the innocent. Consequently, many cannot be persuaded that they ought to recognize these as princes and to obey their authority as far as possible. (Inst. 4.20.4)

Matters become worse when magistrates who are regarded as guardians of peace, protectors of righteousness and avengers of the innocence and who are appointed as minsters of God “to praise the good, and punish the evil regarded fail their duty to praise the good and punish the evil (1 Peter 2:14 Vg). Thus, they also do not recognize as ruler him whose dignity and authority Scripture commends to us. Indeed, this inborn feeling has always been in the minds of men to hate and curse tyrants as much as to love and venerate lawful kings.” (Inst. 4.20.4) Continue reading “John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4”

Hannah Yeoh’s Reference to Faith is a Positive Contribution to Public Discourse in Secular Democracy

Faith and Public Discourse in a Secular Democracy. Part 1

Dr. Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, a lecturer in political science has accused Ms. Hannah Yeoh, the Speaker of the Selangor Assembly of hypocrisy because she acknowledges her support from Christians when she entered politics. She also encourages young people to join politics with the goal of returning integrity, justice and fairness to governance in Malaysia. Kamarul further finds DAP guilty of prejudice against Islam since it readily participates in religious festivals like Wesak and Deepavali and Thaipusam while it champions a view of secular democracy which ‘excludes’ Islam. “Kamarul claims that for DAP, “separation of politics from religion should only be done if it is about Islamic matters. But if it involves other religions such as Christianity then they (DAP) are okay.” [See, Hannah Yeoh’s book more about personal than political growth – The MalaysianInsight 16/05/2017]

It is evident that Kamarul has maligned Hannah Yeoh and misunderstood DAP given that their political commitment is to a form of secular democracy that is enshrined in the National Constitution. More significantly, Kamarul’s accusation is surprising as we would have expected a lecturer in political science to display a nuanced understanding of the relationship between of religion and politics in a secular democracy like Malaysia. While Kamarul personally has no problem going beyond his duty as an academician to initiate political action against Hannah Yeoh, nevertheless he demands that politicians like Hannah Yeoh dichotomize their faith and personal convictions from social-political engagement. Continue reading “Hannah Yeoh’s Reference to Faith is a Positive Contribution to Public Discourse in Secular Democracy”

The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State

Related Article: Between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 LINK

I. Understanding Romans 13:1-7 in Context.
There has been a controversy in the media sparked off by a comment made by the leader of the Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia (CPHM) who urged Christians “to submit to and obey the government and those God had put in authority.” The leader added, “So don’t look at the person, as long as he is in position, the Scripture teaches us to honour and respect authority.”

Detractors protest that the comment is inappropriate as it takes a scriptural text out of context, to be used as a pretext for what is politically partisan. Indeed, many totalitarian states have caused much grief to the church when they sought to exploit this passage to justify their demand for unconditional submission from any Christian citizen who resists abusive authorities. We need therefore to emphasize that Paul’s call for submission is circumscribed by certain presuppositions. Continue reading “The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State”

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: Continue reading “Malaya/Malaysia is a Secular State: Minister Jamil Baharom is Wrong”

Prime Minister Najib Gave Christians a Bounced Check

Finally, the truth is out. The 10-point may bear the signature of PM Najib, but it has no cash value. Honestly, it is a bounced check.

To be sure, it is imprinted with high face value – 10 points to be exact. This includes freedom for Christians to print and circulate the Alkitab and other indigenous Bibles in Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak; it even threatens punishment for government officials who failed to honor the PM’s check, and much besides.

But now the PM says, whatever the face value of his personally signed check, the final decision whether the check is cash-able is up to the State Bank. Unfortunately, nine of the eleven State Banks have since long ago circulated directives which say the kind of checks that the Prime Minister gave to Christians have no cash value. Regardless, the PM assured Christians his check will be honored, especially when the Sarawak State elections was just round the corner in 2011. Continue reading “Prime Minister Najib Gave Christians a Bounced Check”

Will the Real Prime Minister Please Stand Up?- Defending Kalimah Allah

Following the Court of Appeal judgment, the Prime Minister assures Christians in Sabah and Sarawak that the judgment only bans the Catholic Herald from using the Allah word. A few cabinet ministers suggest the 10-Point agreement continues to allow these Christians to use the Christian al Kitab notwithstanding the Allah word.

The PM’s assurance sounds feeble, wishful and arguably misleading when the Appeal Court judgment prohibits the Christian community from using the Allah word on grounds that the word is not integral to Christian faith, that any religious practice must be circumscribed or limited by Islamic sensitivity, and finally, that the prohibition is necessary for national security.

Be assured that officers from JAKIM and the Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan dan Teks Al-Quran (The Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division) will be waving at Christians the Appeal Court written judgment when they decide in due time (chosen at their convenience) to raid a Christian institution and seize its publications or stop any activity deemed offensive to Islamic sensitivity. Continue reading “Will the Real Prime Minister Please Stand Up?- Defending Kalimah Allah”