At the same time, the minister does not say if Malaysia is an Islamic state.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said this in the Dewan Rakyat today, adding that the word “secular” was not even present in the Federal Constitution.
“…the allocation of the law shows that it is clear that Malaysia has never been determined or declared as a secular state,” he added.
He was responding to a question by DAP-Seremban MP John Fernandez, who asked Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak about the decisions made by the former Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas in the case of Che Omar Che Soh vs the Public Prosecutor (1988), where secular law came into question.
At the same time, Nazri did not state if Malaysia was an Islamic country.
However, he added that the country had been using secular law which had been brought over from before Independence, through Article 162 of the Federal Constitution.
The article states that laws existing before Merdeka Day 1957 would continue to be enforced.
In his speech, Nazri said that countries such as India, Turkey and the United States were clear examples of secular countries as their respective constitutions defined them as thus.
He said that secular countries did not specify official religions and that their citizens were free to choose whatever religion they liked.
Malaysia, he hinted, was different. He cited the former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz, adding that Islam was not just a set of dogmas and rituals, but a way of life.
He also cited the Federal Constitution with Islam’s position being the religion of Federation of Malaysia.
Kit Siang: It is secular state
Later, DAP-Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang said that though the word “secular” did not arise in the constitution, it did not mean that Malaysia was not a secular country.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament lobby, he said that several documents had reinforced the country’s status as a secular state.
He cited two 1983 The Star reports, and said that former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn had referred to Malaysia as secular states.
Lim also cited the 1957 Reid Constitution and the 1962 Cobbold commission report as evidence that the country was meant to be governed as such.
“…the Tunku said, ‘Don’t turn Malaysia into an Islamic state, because it is a secular state…Islam is the official religion’, and that was supported by Tun Hussein Onn!” he said.
He added that the term “secular” had appeared in pre-constitution reports, and that Malaysia was in a unique position with its focus on Islam.
Malaysia’s position as an Islamic state had been in confusion ever since former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had in 2001, declared that the country was already one.
At the time, it was believed that he had done so to counter PAS’s influence.