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Monday, September 20, 2010

Article 153 - Islam, Muslims, bumiputeras, non-Muslims

Aizuddin Danian argued that Article 153 of the Malaysia Constitution that provides special privilages to bumiputers creates unfairness and is unislamic. I would believe so. However, as a non-Muslim and a non-bumiputera, what I am keenly interested in is whether similar discriminations and unfairness against non-Muslims in an Islamic state exist. There is some preliminary discussion of that issue in my earlier post on Should non-Muslims in Malaysia have a say regarding Malaysia becoming an Islamic state? at a time when I may not have an in-depth understanding of the issue yet. However, let us see what Aizuddin regarding bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras. Check back later to see if there is any further development:

Article 153 -- is it un-Islamic?
By Aizuddin Danian on September 20, 2010 9:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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Malaysia's official religion, according to Article 3 of its Constitution, is Islam. That doesn't make Malaysia a Muslim nation; there is a find line between a theological state and a secular one. We've yet to make that cross over.

Having said this, it came to mind whether there are any articles in our beloved Constitution that are un-Islamic, in particular Article 153.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special provision of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.

When you think about a Muslim Government in current times, you have to compare it against the Muslim Government of the Prophet Muhammad's time, namely his administration of Muslims and non-Muslims while he was alive.

Muslims are told to take the Prophet as an example (his sunnah); while the Holy Quran often speaks in parables, the actions of the Prophet are how Muslims for all time should interpret as manifestations of what the Holy Quran prescribes in practice. For example, the Holy Quran mentions that Muslims must pray, but it doesn't teach us how to pray. The Prophet's daily prayers are the sample of how these prayers should be performed.

What about the Prophet's political sunnah?

The basis i'm dealing from is the social contract the Prophet signed and ratified with the people of Medina called, the "Medinah Charter". Some say that the Charter is one of the first of its kind, the first ever written state constitution.

The document itself, signed in 622, is an excellent socio-political compromise. The Prophet Muhammad had to get away from the religious persecution of Mecca, and the people of Medina, due to conflict between the native communities of Khazraj and Aws, needed a peace-maker. It was a match literally made in heaven -- the Prophet brought Islam and peace to the Khazraj and Aws by being the one person both sides could trust, and the Prophet was provided a base from which Islam could grow and flourish in the region.

There are key articles in the Charter that can be, taken into context, contradictory to the Constitution of Malaysia, particularly Article 153 which promises a "special position" to the indigenous Malays (Bumiputeras).

Therefore, the thesis is: Malaysia is a Muslim nation. However, its constitution is not in accordance to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Does that make the Malaysian constitution (parts of it) un-Islamic?
Article 16 of the Medina Charter:

Those Jews who follow the Believers will be helped and will be treated with equality.

Article 17:

No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew.

Article 19:

The peace of the Believers (of the State of Madinah) cannot be divided. (it is either peace or war for all. It cannot be that a part of the population is at war with the outsiders and a part is at peace).

Article 30:

The Jews of Bani Awf will be treated as one community with the Believers. The Jews have their religion. This will also apply to their freedmen. The exception will be those who act unjustly and sinfully. By so doing they wrong themselves and their families.

The example in this document set by the Prophet is molded on several principles:

Loyalty will be rewarded, treachery will be punished.
The minorities of the community (the Jews) are equal in rights to the majority from the point of view of the State.
Those that need help will be given help, regardless of their belief.

Let's transplant these principles into our locality:

Loyalty will be rewarded -- the modern day equivalent is citizenship and nationality. If you profess to be a Malaysian, that means you are loyal to your country. No distinction is made to your ethnicity, race or origin. If you are loyal (i.e. a citizen), then you will rewarded by the State. In 622, "protection" was the reward. In 2010, "equal opportunity" should be the reward -- its the only real protection we have against the ills of socio-economic hardship.

The minorities have equal rights to the majority -- this is where the Prophet Muhammad was at least 6 centuries ahead of his time; even the venerated Magna Carta does not protect the rights of all its people equally. If people like Ibrahim Ali and the ultra Malays have their way, then the Prophet Muhammad will be at least 1,500 years ahead of us.

Those in need will be helped, regardless of their belief -- race is the new religion. In 622, the Prophet laid the framework for religious equality: the State will help you if you are in need (and if you are loyal), the State will be "blind" to your religion when dispensing this aid. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and at least where Malaysia is concerned, is seems that there are many in our society who believe that "help" should be dispensed based on your race. If you're a Bumiputera, then "more" help should be made available to you.

The crux of the argument is that the resources of the country will always be limited. To put it simply, there will always be only 100 cows to give away. While it may make sense to give a guarantee that 60% of the population will always have preference to 30 of those cows, this creates a vacuum where the herd has effectively become much smaller: after the "majority tax" the nation only really has 70 cows left to give away.

Considering the fact that these 70 cows need to be distributed evenly, its very possible that they won't be enough to feed everyone. What do you say to the starving people who couldn't get one of the 70 cows? Sorry, we know you're in need, but we've already reserved those 30 other cows, you can't have them (we'll give them to that other fellow instead, who may not need the cow to begin with but happens to be part of the privileged group).

The Prophet Muhammad was a pretty smart man. He knew that the Muslims needed the Jews, Christians and idol worshipers of Medina, just as much as they needed his unique peacekeeping talents.

The Malays of Malaysia need the Chinese, Indians and others, and vice versa. Its a symbiotic relation that only works when we're all equally vested and equally rewarded. While the early years of statehood required Article 153 (just like we required the Reid Commission to write our Constitution for us), i think the time has come that we use our own words to determine our own fate.

The sunnah of the prophet has shown us that equality and fairplay are the basic twin peaks of nation building. While i won't go so far as to say the likes of Article 153 in the Malaysian Constitution, PERKASA and the ultra Malay are un-Islamic for ignoring the sunnah of the Prophet, sometimes you just have to realize that the proof is in the pudding.

Related articles
Ibrahim Ali - intellectually bankrupt (
Am i racist? (
The Gini co-efficient is only half the story for Malaysia (
This is the sort of thing that inflames Muslims (

Categories: Perspectives
Tags: article 153, malaysia, racism
By timothy au on September 20, 2010 6:21 PM
Prophet Muhammad is an honorable man, those from perkasa and barisan national can't even be compare to His Highness shit!shit!shit!

Source: Article 153 -- is it un-Islamic?

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