“Malaysia is undoubtedly a secular nation,” the DAP Godfather has once again publicly declared from his platform abroad (this time in Sydney) – see Malaysiakini report on Saturday.
If silence is taken to imply consent, then might we assume DAP’s political partners are in agreement with Lim Kit Siang, that is unless Pribumi, PAN and PKR will step forward to contradict his “secular state” assertion.
BELOW: What say Harapan’s Muslim elected reps about the claim that their Malaysia Baru is no longer Dar al-Islam but a secular state, “no doubt about it”?
In Malaysia, judicial caning is imposed on only male criminals. Hence within the DAP’s idea of ‘secular’ state, punishing the two Muslim lesbians in Terengganu – who were early this month caned in the Syariah Court with six strokes of the rotan each – is dare we say, quite un-secular.
DAP evangelical MP Hannah Yeoh reacted to the said syariah punishment with the statement: “Education doesn’t work this way”.
So, it’s an unworkable, childish approach, according to the DAP evangelistas (ref. Guardian story linked below).
Hannah Yeoh willing to disregard “syariah nod”
Recent events only serve to reinforce the DAP’s intrepid interpretation of the secular concept. Needless to say, DAP evangelista YBs are at the forefront of this push for more secularism (meaning, contra syariah).
Malaysia risks becoming ‘un-secular’ since syariah jurisdiction is, in practice on the ground, taking precedence over the penal code. It’s reported today that a 30-year-old Muslim divorcee could be subjected to caning after a raid by the Terengganu Islamic authority found her inside a hotel room with a man who is bukan mahram.
In a secular country, one should – theoretically – not have any syariah courts nor religious agencies that implement and enforce Islamic law.
DAP evangelicals, namely Segambut parliamentarian Hannah Yeoh, is weighing in with her insistence “syariah nod doesn’t mean cops can’t probe child marriages” (ref. Malay Mail story linked below).
Expect the secular activists to further widen the scope of their intervention into syariah issues. Already one lawyer is questioning the discussion of hudud death penalty for apostasy featured in an SPM revision guide. Do secularists even object to Muslims mentioning or holding a theoretical theological discussion among themselves?
Impact and consequences of Christian political power
Both PAS and Umno are anxious that Islam is presently under grave threat following the GE14 nightmarish result. A comparison with four countries closest demographically to Malaysia provides a statistical perspective to the PAS-Umno concerns.
Malaysia is very special in the Islamic world. There are only four other Muslim-majority countries like us, i.e. having between 60-70 percent Muslim population – see graph below.
Some common features among these five unique countries in this 60-70 multi-religious bandwidth are their pivotal Christian population (enough in sheer number to exert political leverage) and the minority Christians there holding positions of power.
Note: Malaysian Muslim population figures are represented by the green line
Comparison with Christian president, Muslim-majority population countries
Burkina Faso and Lebanon have Christian populations of 21.7 percent and 38.4 percent respectively. In both these countries, it is the Christian who is executive head of state. The Christian president of Burkina Faso is Roch Marc Christian Kabore; the Christian president of Lebanon is Michel Aoun.
Nonetheless, the graph above, which projects population to the year 2040, hints at why Burkina Faso (orange line) and Lebanon (blue line) are likely to maintain their status quo of Christian power-sharing whereas Malaysia (green line) is on a high Islamization trajectory.
Still, it is not entirely unthinkable that Malaysia can one day have its own Christian prime minister. Perhaps if the Malaysian Christian population ever doubles, we might be able to emulate or replicate Burkina Faso.
Out of the 49 Muslim-majority countries globally, 32 are mono religious having populations that are more than 90 percent Muslim – click here to see chart. For explanatory bar graphs and more detailed background on the Islamization imperative, please refer to my previous post last week.
The ratio of Muslims to the general Malaysian population shows a rate of steady increase – green line seen above slanting strongly upwards. The proportion of Muslims in Burkina Faso is increasing too but not as steeply as in Malaysia.
Meanwhile in Lebanon and in Bahrain (grey line) as well, the Muslim ratio is stagnant. Oil rich Bahrain and Qatar have a sizeable temporary emigrant population that comprises Christian and Hindu foreign workers.
Due to the significant presence of ethnic minorities in cosmopolitian Qatar, the country’s Muslim population ratio will actually decline over the next 20 years! An UBAH cautionary tale for Malaysia … Umno, PAS pay heed.
How DAP can help M’sia pass the secular test
Secularism refers to:
- The separation of the religious orders from the state
- Neutrality of the state in religious matters
- Equal treatment by the state of different religions, and
- Religion being a matter of the private sphere which is strictly separated from the public sphere
The above parameters were described by Singapore researcher Michael Heng in the book State and Secularism: Perspectives from Asia.
Let’s look at how Malaysia fares against the criteria checklisted:
I. There’s no separation of State and ‘Masjid’
Malaysia has Majlis Agama in all the states (e.g. MAIS) as well as federal department Jakim / state Jabatan Agama (e.g. JAIS), Majlis Fatwa, etc. and all these agencies function in an official capacity. In certain years, Jakim has been allocated an annual budget of close to one billion ringgit and employing thousands of staff.
There are also Islamic bodies like Tabung Haji and Baitulmal with no equivalent yet for other religions, e.g. no state Christian pilgrimage fund to Jerusalem, say.
To make Malaysia secular, DAP will have to stop the state from endorsing or policing Islam. Is it an wonder therefore that we hear loud calls to shut down Jakim?
II. The state is not religiously neutral
Nine Malaysian states have rulers who are heads of Islam. The Yang DiPertuan Agong takes his oath of office swearing to uphold and protect Islam.
Federal constitution Article 11(4) allows the state to “control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam”.
In plainspeak, Muslims can dakwah to non-Malays and these conversions to Islam even coming under the aegis of national bodies like Perkim and Yadim. However the reverse – Christian missionaries preaching to Muslims – is against the law.
Thus some political pundits have been advocating that the DAP move a motion in parliament to amend the constitution should the party really care to prove its secular credentials.
BELOW: Evangelist Hannah Yeoh (in black tudung litup at head of table) often presides over meals with Muslim groups in her extensive outreach activities
III. No equality in treatment of the different religions
We have Islamic television station TV Al-Hijrah operating on a yearly budget provided by the state, and Islamic radio station Ikim. Malaysia does not have dedicated Christian broadcast media channels … at least for now.
The state also pays allowances to Kafa (kelas al-Quran dan fardhu ain) teachers and huffaz. For the time being, Sunday school is not financed by the state but who knows? The DAP motto is, after all, the call for change.
Federal constitution Article 12(2) states, moreover:
“[…] it shall be lawful for the Federation or a State to establish or maintain or assist in establishing or maintaining Islamic institutions or provide or assist in providing instruction in the religion of Islam and incur such expenditure as may be necessary for the purpose.”
The above clause permits the state to fund Islamic institutions and programmes; the constitution does not have any similar clause providing funding for Christian instruction.
Nonetheless, in New Malaysia the Harapan baru government is the one now calling the shots and who knows if it will soon cave in to the DAP’s incessant demands for “equality”?
BELOW: Hannah Yeoh critical of sekolah tahfiz
IV. State privileges Islam in the public arena
The state’s coercive powers and resources are utilised in the service of Islam. Syariah compliant dress code compels civil servants or visitors to government buildings to conform with Islamic mores.
The Muslim doa too is recited in our government offices and classrooms.
As a comparison, in secular Turkey during the 1930s under the rule of military leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Islamic religious education was taken out of Turkish schools.
Likewise pushback against Islamic influences in Malaysian national schools is getting louder since the Harapan GE14 victory, e.g. from the Malaysiakini column linked below extolling Chinese schools.
In other areas of Islamic privilege, being Muslim is a requirement to holding certain public office, for instance several Malaysian states require their Menteri Besar to be an adherent of the faith.
Guarantees for the Islamic and Malay nature of the states are actually stipulated in the Undang-Undang Tubuh Negeri, as evidenced in Article 52 (2)(a) of the Selangor constitution, for example, which requires even the State Secretary to be “of the Malay race and profess the Muslim religion” – see below.
Most subtly and stealthily, DAP is now beginning to place its Malay operatives in influential public positions, e.g. mid-level party leader Wan Hamidi Hamid who was recently proposed as Bernama CEO. With DAP men embedded in the deep state, change will come.
Who is to say many more DAP Malays – or even DAP non Malays – will not be infiltrating the super structure to wrought secular changes from within?