Monday, July 23, 2007

Watch the camel.


Chandra Muzzafar wrote that labels are not helpful or necessary as Malaysia is neither strictly one or the other.

That would be Law Professor Shad Faruqi’s position too. The constitutional law expert has on several occasions described Malaysia as neither wholly Islamic nor secular but a “democratic secular federation with Islam as its official religion.” In a more recent update, the good prof reiterates that it’s “not something to be ashamed of.” That suits me fine. Other folks more knowledgeable than me call Malaysia a guided democracy, a constitutional monarchy, a qualified secular nation. Again I can live with that.

Chandra Muzzafar wrote in Malaysiakini that the shared destiny of all Malaysians is already enunciated in 3 vital documents:

If we reflected upon the Malaysian Constitution, the Rukunegara and Vision 2020, it would appear that they represent a trajectory in the evolution of the nation’s identity and character. It is as if the three documents embody the steady maturation of the Malaysian state and society…

This is why as we observe the 50th year of our Merdeka, we should reiterate our trust and confidence in the three documents that speak to the spirit of the Malaysian people and their shared destiny. To embroil ourselves in the unending controversy about whether we are a secular state or an Islamic state is to forfeit our future.

That's wise advice.

But DPM Najib has seen fit to push the envelope and pronounce us Islamic. Hishammuddin has issued his signature threat to MCA not to dispute it. And infamous son-in-law Khairy has reportedly expressed his view that Malaysia is neither secular (as in separation of church and state) nor theocratic (like Iran), but a ‘negara Islam.’ Evidently there is a dearth of genuine Islamic models in the world, and UMNO politicians, it seems to me, are trying to win the holier-than-thou Islamic state sweepstake.

You just have to watch it when the camel gets its nose in your tent.

The pluralistic and multicultural character of Malaysia has served us well for 50 years. To unravel the delicate fabric of Malaysia’s character is beyond me.

Why so, and why now?

The concerted attempt to undermine the integrity of the Federal Constitution merely shows a denial of history and a blatant disregard for the social contract that was birthed at Merdeka. It’s what Prof Shad Faruqi has referred to as a “silent rewriting” of the nation’s constitution.

I think the vitriol of UMNOputra Hishamuddin, Khairy, et al, in defense of DPM Najib’s statement leaves no doubt now what the intent of UMNO is. There is not only a deliberate assault on the Federal Constitution, but an outright contempt of BN component parties and a total disrespect of their views as partners in a coalition government. It was never an equal partnership to begin with and few people in Malaysia imagine otherwise.

Everyone knows the BN dacing is disproportionately weighted, its aesthetically balanced logo notwithstanding. With the latest threat by Education Minister Hisham – certain to be echoed by the party’s minions – are we, again, going to see our venerable ministers in MCA, MIC, and Gerakan tails between their legs whimpering politely and gesticulating tamely?

Malaysia is not and has never been secular. Malaysia is an Islamic state.

What a timely rallying cry for Merdeka.

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