Is making Malaysia a secular state means the country has to be anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-royalty or anti-religion?

DAP MP for Kepong Lim Lip Eng has provoked a new round of debate, dissection and analysis whether Malaysia is a secular state or an Islamic state.

PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man in his response to Lip Eng said Malaysia is not a secular country and that PAS accepts the basic pillars in the formation of the country.

Before I address this subject, I wish to first examine whether a secular state is anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-royalty or anti-religion.

Malaysia can never rise up again and be a great world-class nation if we have our own definition of terms which is different from the rest of the world.

Free encyclopedia Wikipedia defines a secular state as “an idea pertaining to secularity, whereby a state is or purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion”.

“A secular state claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen based on their religious beliefs, affiliation or lack of either over those with other profiles,” Wikipedia pointed out.

Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang

By its definition, a secular state is not anti-religion.

Wikipedia further lists 43 countries in Africa, 34 in the Americas, 20 in Asia, 31 in Europe, 11 in Oceania and eight transcontinental countries as secular countries.  Out of these 147 countries, some 30 of them are member countries in the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) which shows that a secular state is not anti-Islam.

The formative discussions leading up to independence conducted by the Reid Commission and the Cobbold Commission prior to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 state that:

(a) The (White Paper) Federation of Malaya Constitutional Proposals 1957 succinctly states that “there has been included in the proposed Federal Constitution a declaration that Islam is the religion of the Federation. This will in no way affect the present position of the Federation as a secular state….”

(b) The Cobbold Commission (1962) elucidates that “… we are agreeable that Islam should be the national religion for the Federation. We are satisfied that the proposal in no way jeopardises freedom of religion in the Federation which in effect would be secular”.

Bapa Malaysia and the first prime minister (PM) Tunku Abdul Rahman said on Feb 8, 1983 when celebrating his 80th birthday that Malaysia should not be turned into an Islamic state because the country had a multi-racial population with various beliefs.

He stressed that the nation was set up as a secular state with Islam as the religion and this was enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The third PM Tun Hussein Onn in his birthday celebration a week later publicly agreed with Tunku. A secular state is therefore not anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-royalty or anti-religion. – Oct 22, 2023


Veteran lawmaker and retired DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang was Malaysia’s longest-serving opposition leader (29 years on three separate occasions).

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: SikhNet

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