This is the message the other Barisan Nasional component parties have been trying to put to Malaysians ever since Mahathir’s declaration at the Gerakan national delegates conference on September 29, causing the MCA to come out with the oxymoron of Malaysia as a “secular Islamic state”, MCA and Gerakan leaders claiming that Malaysia has been an Islamic state for the past 44 years and the outrageous explanation by MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik that “Many things can be called by more than one name… a rose in English is a rose, in Mandarin it is mei-kwei, in Malay bunga mawar and in Tamil roja but they all mean the same thing.”
What I find most astounding is that the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism, which on the eve of the 1999 general elections, pledged support to the Barisan Nasional to oppose an Islamic State being foisted in Malaysia - a major cause for DAP’s electoral disaster - could be so easily accept such an explanation to “whitewash” the gravity of the pronouncement that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.
It is irresponsible and dangerous complacency to regard the Prime Minister’s declaration and the blind and unthinking endorsement by the other Barisan Nasional component parties that Malaysia is an Islamic state as a mere political statement which would not affect the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as official religion.
It is a matter of grave concern that Malaysians are still largely unaware of the tectonic shift that had taken place in Malaysian politics and the nation-building process - where the top national agenda to develop a democratic, secular, tolerant, multi-religious and progressive Malaysia in the past four decades has been replaced by the question as to what type of an Islamic state Malaysia should become, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.
Malaysians must realise that once they agree that Malaysia is already an Islamic state - or even more shocking, that Malaysia had been an Islamic state for the past 44 years as now claimed by MCA and Gerakan - they are not only jettisoning the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a secular state but creating a new dichotomy of Malaysian citizens into Muslim and non-Muslim Malaysians.
This is because non-Muslim Malaysians can have no meaningful role or say in the debate and contest as to what type of a Islamic state Malaysia should be, ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.
This is why the abandonment of the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a secular state, and acceptance that Malaysia is an Islamic state, has far-reaching political, legal and citizenship consequences, regardless of whether there is an amendment to the Constitution or not.
It is only when Malaysia remains committed to the fundamental principle in the Merdeka Constitution of a secular nation with Islam as the official religion that non-Muslim Malaysians can have a meaningful role in shaping the national destiny.
Far from promoting irresponsible and dangerous complacency, the Bar Council, the Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism and all other organisations and Malaysians committed to a democratic, secular, tolerant, multi-religious and progressive Malaysia should create awareness of the tectonic shift in Malaysian nation-building with the general acceptance of the declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.