KUALA LUMPUR: Vocal Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa has called for religious neutrality in governing Malaysia, saying there should be a balance between religion and secularism.
But Farouk, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), said religious neutrality did not mean Islamic principles were irrelevant in formulating laws and public policies.
He said it was also not a call to impose a secular state as was done by Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, or by the Ba’ath regimes in Syria and Iraq.
“Such authoritarian efforts are not only doomed to fail as it has to be maintained by force, but are also objectionable as they go against Islamic principles,” he told a forum to discuss Malaysia’s direction after the coming general election.
Farouk said religious neutrality would protect individual freedom.
Citing Muslim women’s dress, he said the state should not have any say in the matter, including whether a Muslim woman should wear the hijab.
He said this was not the case in Kelantan ruled by PAS.
“The state wants to interpret what is Islamic and enforce it on others,” he added.
Farouk also questioned those who call for the implementation of shariah, saying they were wrong to regard it as divine law.
“In actual sense, it is the interpretation of the ulama,” he said, adding that there were Muslim scholars out to replicate events that took place 1,400 years ago in Medina, where the Prophet established a Muslim community.
“Once they say it is shariah, it becomes divine law. They say it is not right to argue. Therein is the real problem.”