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Friday, August 10, 2007

Parliamentary Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion and not an Islamic State: Report

The Parliamentary Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion and not an Islamic State was successful executed, though with a slight delay because another group had occupied the chamber a bit longer than their allotted time. The panelists were, from left to right:

Y.B. Karpal Singh, the Lion of Gelugor (absent from photo because he was in the wheelchair, not on the platform).
DAP National Chairman
M.P. Bukit Gelugor

Honey Tan
AWAM (All Women's Action Society)

Dr. Farish A. Noor
Political scientist and historian at the Centre for Modern Orient Studies, Berlin

Malik Imtiaz Sawar
HAKAM (National Human Rights Society)

Y. B. Lim Kit Siang
Parliament Opposition Leader

Datuk Vatthilingam
MCCBHCST (Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism)

Lim Guan Eng
DAP Secretary General

Dr. Nasir
Protem Chairman
Party Socialist Malaysia

Andrew Choo
Human Rights Committee
Bar Council Malaysia

Parliament Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular State and not an Islamic State panelists
Parliament Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular State and not an Islamic State panelists


Here is the missing Lion of Gelugor - Y.B. Karpal Singh (behind him are some journalists, probably including one from Malaysiakini as the event is reported in that online newspaper):

Lion of Gelugor - Y.B. Karpal Singh


Below is a photo of some of the participants (minus me plus some cut off from the left hand corner). I am not a journalist, but perhaps trying to be one. A true and impartial journalist is said to report events as the are, not as them want to be Unfortunately events like protests against petrol price increase drew large crowd but events involving crucial issues like this drew a pathetic crowd. I was told the Barisan M.P.'s and others were invited but declined. Would have loved them to be present to rebut the arguments put forth by the panelists and the participants, but apparently they prefer to ignore such events (the points put forth are hard to dispute in my opinion) but probably prefer to blank out mainstream media coverage of such events and maybe just dismiss them as nonsense if they appear on the Internet rather than rebutting them.

Parliamentarh Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular state and never an Islamic State - Participants
Participants at the Parliament Roundtable to reaffirm Malaysia is a secular State and not an Islamic State participants


As I said above, I am not a journalist and don't have a tape recorder nor can I take notes in short-hand, but scribble what I can. So what I report may not be exactly accurate (some may be from my recollection or even my own interpretation. My apologies to the panelists if I have quoted them inaccurately). I hope to contact them to examine this post and correct me wherever I am wrong or missed out something important. This is the first time I am doing something like this and if a future opportunities come, from the experience gained, I hope to do better next time.

Y.B. Lim Kit Siang started off the discussions summarising why Malaysia cannot be considered an Islamic state, then passed the microphone to Malik Imtiaz Sawar.

Some points raised by Malik Imtiaz Sawar

Declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State cannot be taken lightly, but have serious legal implications. In a secular state, the Constitution is the supreme law . In a weak democracy (which is what Malaysian is now), the Executive controls the Parliament. Rule can be by decree by a powerful few. The Judiciary is controlled by the Executive. The statement by the honorable Deputy Prime Statement has no basis and is an irresponsible statement.

This is not part of Malik Imtiaz Sawar's speech at the Parliamentary Roundtable, but is what I believed he published as part of this preparation for the Roundtable. You can read more about his thoughts on this issue at Not just a matter of labels

Some points raised by Y.B. Karpal Singh

What state are we? The documents available showed clearly Malaysia is a secular state.

Some points raised by Farish A. Noor, the internationally renowned scholar

In his study of various countries who got Independence from the colonists, he found some disturbing trends and similarity. A weak democracy can lead to a rule by decree. He gave an interesting example: A deputy decreed that the world is round and no one is to dispute it nor discuss it. His superior came up with a slightly watered down version - the world is neither flat nor round, and I suppose no one can question that either. So is the world flat or round?

He said there is a pattern that the more corrupt the leaders are, and the greater their credibility drops, the more religious they will want to appear. He said no true Islamic state will support (a very draconian) ISA (Internal Security Act).

"Centuries of Muslim legal scholarship have argued against detention without trial, and yet we have politicians summarily applied Islamic ethics to which we cannot, beyond any stretch of the imagination, reach the even minimum basic ethical requirement of any Muslim theology."

Some try to demonise the definition of a secular state as anti-religion. He says a secular state is not anti-religion (further notes not legible). The only important thing in a secular Malaysia is that every Malaysian is considered equal.

Farish Noor's speech is reported in Malaysiakini at Nation descending into sectarian politics. You have to subscribe to Malaysiakini to read the report in full.

Some points raised by Mr. Lim Guan Eng

We Malaysians have been given many promises. Religious freedom? There is no (real) religious freedom. Give financial aids to temples and churches? Some even had to wait for years to get approval and are forced to go to court to get building approval. So what religious freedom? Most wouldn't even dare to ask for financial aid, much less expect to get any.

And why would the whole government machinery be brought against a 24 year old Taiwanese student Lee Meng Chee? To distract attention from something? He said if there is any action taken against him, Karpal Singh will defend him. He quoted the well known saying about the freedom of expression - 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'

Some points raised by Honey from AWAM

There have been many cases of injustice been perpetrated against women, and many of them steamed from the Syariah. She quoted the cases of Sharmala, Lina Joy, Revathi, the refusal of the Parliament to make marital rape as a crime, based on the Syariah law.

Some points raised by Harcharan Singh

A secular state means all citizens are equal. That is not so in an Islamic state. Many are denied justice because of Islam. Some judges also refused to give justice to some people because of Islam.

Some points raiased by Datuk Vatthilingam

He remembered that Malaysia had always been a secular state. Why now the declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state again? Is it for politial mileage, to try to win votes for the coming election, to distract attention from something more serious? The government is continuing to use race and religion to try to run the country their own way. There are subtle moves to .....

Some points raised by Andrew Choo

He said, some ask why the statement that Malaysia is an Islamic state is so important. I think he said something that statements like this can have legal implications and can lead to undesirable consequences, like how other countries are going to view us and interact with us. I think he also said it may also embolden some religious zealots in making things difficult for non-Muslims (and perhaps even moderate Muslims). He said the test of democracy is how will it protects the weakest components of a nation.

Declaration

At the end of the Roundtable, Y.B. Lim Kit Siang read out a prepared declaration and asked those who agree with the declaration shows it by a show of hand. Those who agreed signed the declarations and handed them in, and I supposed they will be handed over to the proper authorities. I don't know what effect that will have, but at least, we have done our part.

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