“Malaysia is a secular country” – that is a very popular myth concocted and supported by people who are obviously constitutionally illiterate and clueless about the interpretation of the Federal Constitution of our country.
MCA Legal Affairs Bureau Chairman Datuk Tay Puay Chuan’s press statement which was published on the MCA website yesterday (March 30, 2017) with the title, “Federal Constitution remains the supreme law of the nation” is part of the series of false and baseless accusations by certain groups to undermined the core principals of our country.
Tay Puay Chuan who clearly does not (or pretended not to) understand the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, as well as the definition of secularism, made several false accusations regarding the position of Islam in Malaysia, using the recycled baseless arguments which had been answered by many people for years.
I’ve written so many articles on this currently “hot issue” trying to open the minds of these people but then, it seems that some people just prefer to live in denial.
Below is the press statement (orange) together with my answers (blue) to all his twisted facts and wild accusations regarding Islam as the religion of the Federation.
I would like to stress again that the status of Islam as the religion of the federation, the roots of the Islamic law nationwide are granted by the Federal Constitution. This ascertains that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of Malaysia
It is true that the Federal Constitution of Malaysia is the supreme law of the Federation as mentioned in Article 4 of the Federal Constitution, but Islam as the religion of the Federation is placed in the Article 3(1) which is in a higher order of precedence of the Articles. Therefore it gives Islam a higher position than the supreme law itself, meaning the supreme law of the land must be subjected to Islam as the religion of the Federation. This was mentioned by the then Federal Court Judge, Tan Sri Apandi Ali in the Court of Appeal judgement of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Kementrian Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia, also known as the Kalimah Allah case.
The Article places the religion of Islam at par with the other basic structures of the Constitution, as it is the 3 rd in the order of precedence of the Articles that were within the confines of Part I of the Constitution
This is in response to the booklet by Institute Kajian Strategik Islam Malaysia (IKSIM) on the ’10 Salah Tanggapan Tentang Kedudukan Islam di Malaysia (10 Misconceptions about the Position of Islam in Malaysia)’, in which it included topics that either directly wrote or implied that ‘Malaysia is not a secular country;’ ‘rejecting claims that Islam is lower than the Constitution;’ ‘As an Islamic nation, Islamic system is the thrust;’ as well as ‘other religions have no equal standing; and ‘the nation does not carry the responsibility to safeguard and defend other religions.’
Malaysian leaders of all religions must be constitutionally literate and uphold the Federal Constitution including Article 3(1) that enshrines Islam as the religion of the Federation making Malaysia an Islamic nation. All the Articles in the Federal Constitution must be read together and people cannot just cherry-pick what they like and interpret the Articles according to their fancy to serve their agendas. In the High Court decision of the case, Meor Atiqulrahman bin Ishak & Ors v Fatimah Sihi & Ors 1 MLJ 393, the then Justice Mohd Noor Abdullah had clearly clarified that other religions have no equal standing as Islam:
In my opinion, “Islam is the religion of the Federation but other religions may be practied in peace and harmony” means that Islam is the main religion among other religions that are practied in the country such as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others. Islam is not equal to any other religion, not sitting together or stand upright. It sits on top, he walked past, located in the field and his voice heard. Islam is like teak trees – tall, strong and skilled. If not so Islam is not the religion of the Federation but is one among several religions practised in the country and everyone is equally free to practice any religion he professes, no more one than the other. Provisions ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation’ shall be defined and reviewed with the objective to read other provisions of the Constitution, especially Article 89, 152, 153 and 14.
Even though people of other religions can practise their religions (as long as they are in peace and harmony with Islam), there is no provision in the Federal Constitution to protect other religions except Islam, for example, the Article 11(4).
IKSIM must be alerted that the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution also explains that Islamic law is for persons professing the religion of Islam on matters related to succession, marriage, divorce, etc.
I have read the booklet and in the booklet, IKSIM has never said that the Islamic law has the jurisdiction over people professing other religions other than Islam.
The Federal Constitution is THE supreme law of the nation, and the supremacy of the Constitution renders Islam as the religion of the federation whilst other religions are allowed to be practised freely.
That is not only a false but also a malicious statement. The Constitution has never stated that “other religions can be practised freely” in any of its Articles or Schedules. Article 11(1) says that, “Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it” while Article 3(1) clearly says, “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation”. So, there is no phrase such as “other religions can be practised freely” in both Articles. Maybe Tay came across the word “bebas” in the Perjanjian Kerjasama Pakatan Harapan – PPBM and was confused by it.
As for the phrase, “in peace and harmony”, it was clearly interpreted by the then Federal Court Judge, Tan Sri Apandi Ali in the Court of Appeal case of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v Kementerian Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia.
Such publication will surely have an adverse effect upon the sanctity as envisaged under Article 3(1) and the right for other religions to be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation. Any such disruption of the even tempo is contrary to the hope and desire of peaceful and harmonious co-existence of other religions other than Islam in this country.
Malaysia is a secular country. In fact, the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, Supreme Court judgement enables the implementation of secular laws in the country, which includes both criminal and civil laws. These laws apply to the entire country, irrespective of race and religion. Similarly, the Federal Constitution also provides that Islamic law may only be used on persons professing the religion of Islam. Therefore, Islamic law is not for everyone. Only secular laws may be applied to everyone. Hence, this is one of the proofs which shows that Malaysia is a secular country.
Contrary to what was argued by Tay, the fact that Malaysia has two court systems, the civil court systems and the Syariah Court systems proves that Malaysia is not a secular country.
By the way, does Tay understand the meaning of the word secularism? George Jacob Holyoake, the creator of the term secularism defined secularism as separating government and religion. Therefore, as said in many of my previous posts, it is impossible for Malaysia to be defined as a secular country when Islam is stated as the religion of the Federation. It also contradicts with other Articles of the Constitution such as the Articles 11(4), 12, 37, 76A, 121(1A) and others.
As I wrote in my article for the news portal Menara, in a secular country, the State does not have a religion and cannot has anything to do in relation to religion, for example in the case of Mount Soledad Easter Cross in San Diego, California.
Hence, by calling Malaysia a secular country, Tay slanders and challenges both the Federal Constitution and the definition of secularism.
Syariah law which is currently applied across all states, is the provision of rights granted to all state governments on the law as outlined in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution. It is stated with a condition that the criminal penalties and jurisdictions of the Syariah Court cannot contravene the Federal Constitution, or it will be considered void and unconstitutional.
The jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts does not contravene the Federal Constitution because it was conferred by the Federal Constitution in Item 1 of the Second List in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution also states that: Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
This again shows that other religions are also protected by the Federal Constitution. Hence the claims made in the booklet that the country has no obligation to defend nor protect other religions are incorrect. Instead, our nation and the government have the responsibility of defending all religions in line with the Articles and spirit of the Federal Constitution.
What a mind blowing senseless argument! It shows that either Tay is truly constitutionally illiterate or he, in bad faith is trying to deny and debase the position of Islam in our Federal Constitution because his argument is against the core principals of the supreme law of the land. In the Court of Appeal judgement of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Kementrian Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia, Tan Sri Apandi Ali said that the purpose of “in peace and harmony” were added to Article 3(1) is to protect the sanctity of Islam, and not to defend other religions as claimed by Tay.
It is my judgment that the purpose and intention of the insertion of the words: “in peace and harmony” in Article 3(1) is to protect the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the country and also to insulate against any threat faced or any possible and probable threat to the religion of Islam.
Therefore, Tay must be constitutionally illiterate if he really thinks that the Federal Constitution conferred Malaysia as a secular country, all religions have equal standing and the nation carries the responsibility to safeguard and defend other religions other than Islam.
It is a known fact that during the 13th General Election, MCA won it seats mostly because of the Malay voters, so this kind of attitude is not a gracious way to thank the voters who had graciously voted for the party candidates regardless of their race and religion. MCA must grow up and stop imitating DAP in debasing Islam and the Malays in trying to win the Chinese votes because it won’t work.
We are now constitutionally literate and therefore the people are not stupid to easily be fooled by concocted lies. Is it too much for me to hope for leaders to understand and uphold the core principals of my country as clearly stated in the Federal Constitution and stop misinterpreting the supreme law of the land for their political and personal agendas?