Monday, July 31, 2006

1/2 Century old - we must answer "Who are we"?

Malaysia will celebrate its 49th year of independence in a months time. As it approaches half a century old, Malaysia is faced with a serious identity crises. Who are we? There are pending court cases that would determine our future as a nation. What is needed in this hour of turning is Leadership.

Bold leadership to allow meaningful dialogue to determine Malaysia’s identity and then to communicate this to the rakyat. The dialogue should be sponsored by the government or its agencies (Malaysia Think Tank) and perhaps not by an interested party ie. "Article 11". There are 3 issues intertwined and which must be answered to clearly define who we are as a nation.

1) Are we secular or theocratic in governance?
2) Is the Federal Constitution the highest law of the land or is the syariah?
3) Clear definitions of race, religion and nationality

I was quite tickled when a little child came up to me to say, I don’t go to church on Sunday, because I am Chinese. In Malaysia there is such a confusion on my race, my religion and my nationality. I think politicians have made this even more confusing, but it is very simple; A Chinese is not always a budhist and an Indian is not always a Hindu. The jury is still out on whether a Malay is always a Muslim. This is a question that the malay community in Malaysia must dialogue to agree. If the Federal Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Federation, then it actually does not specifically spell out that a malay is synonymous to Muslim.

According to the Federal Constitution…here an excerpt of part I:
(1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
(2) In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observance or ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorize the Yang di-pertuan Agong to represent him.
(3). The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be Head of the religion of Islam in that State.
(4) Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.
(5) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.
(1) This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Under the Fundamental Liberties section; it states :
(1) Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
More on the constitution of Malaysia:

The question therefore left is are we Secular or Theocratic. The way our founding fathers intended it to be in 1957 as outlined in this sacred document; is clearly a secular state governed by the highest law of the land; The Federal Constitution of Malaysia.


hm said...

I am writing my thoughts here - I have a comment on everything just because I am "kay poh"...

The question, while seemingly simple, I believe is extremely complex in the Malaysian context - at least, I think the answer is pretty complex. The underlying reason is that our society is composed of many races and relgions which, on the on the one hand, is trying to meld and form a Malaysian identity and culture and on the other hand, tries to maintain its own identity and culture to differentiate itself. Why is there this need ? Because politics are drawn along racial lines. So throw that in the mix, chuck in the religious issues (which by the way, is also largely (but not exclusively) drawn along racial lines) and the tendency of politicans to stir the pot with racial and religious issues whenever they need something.

So are we secular or theocratic ? My somewhat pragmatic answer is that we are largely secular until it suits someone to bring in the religious issues.
Is the Constitution the highest law in the land ? Sure (and I think the Founding Fathers intended it that way) until it suits someone to say that Syariah issues are outside of the Constitution.

Clear definitions ? Little chance. The "flexible" definitions allow for future shenanigans... But can we get it clear in our own minds - where it really matters ? Sure, and it is for us to educate our children for leaving it in the hands of the education system would be dubious at best.


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