Cabinet commended for rejecting proposal to invite Al-Azhar religious experts to assess whether Malaysia is Islamic state but most regrettable  its  decision made on wrong and unconstitutional ground


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Cabinet is to be commended for rejecting the proposal by the Religious Adviser to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Othman, that the Malaysian government invite top religious scholars from Egypt's Al-Azhar University to
assess the country's administrative system and policies to prove that it is an Islamic state.

DAP had made an immediate response to Abdul Hamidís proposal last month, expressing shock and calling on the Cabinet to put on hold the invitation to ulamas from the Al-Azhar University to assess whether Malaysia is an Islamic state to give time and opportunity for all Malaysians, Muslim as well as non-Muslims, to consider its propriety and implications to the Malaysian nation-building process.

This was because Hamidís announcement was  the latest example of a most disturbing trend  of increasing insensitivity to the feelings and rights of Malaysians citizens comprising diverse races, languages, religions and cultures which is inimical to the  Bangsa Malaysia concept under Vision 2020.

I had asked what  would be the reaction if foreign experts from all religions, whether Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism or Sikhism are  invited to assess as to whether Malaysia had been consistent with the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as official religion as clearly stipulated by the Merdeka
Constitution 1957?  Such visits would be regarded as intolerable interference with the domestic affairs of Malaysia - and the same should apply to the proposal of a similar mission by Al Azhar ulama.

Yesterday, Bernama reported the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin announcing that the Cabinet had decided that there was no need for the government to invite  ulama from outside the country, including the University of Al-Azhar, Egypt to assess Malaysia's status as an Islamic state.

The rejection of the proposal to invite Al-Azhar religious experts to Malaysia is right and proper, as Malaysians cannot brook any interference from any quarter as to the form, content and direction of nation-building in a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia - for  this is an issue which can only be decided by Malaysians and not foreigners.

However, while the Cabinet should be  commended for rejecting the  proposal to invite Al-Azhar religious experts to assess whether Malaysia is an Islamic state it is most regrettable that this decision made on the wrong and unconstitutional ground that Malaysia is already an Islamic state and acknowledged by the outside world.

This is incorrect, as Malaysia has never become an Islamic state. It is a pity that the great opportunity was lost to put this matter right.

When the Cabinet considered the proposal whether to invite Al-Azhar University ulamas to Malaysia, Cabinet Ministers particularly from MCA, Gerakan, PPP and MIC should have  taken the opportunity to get the Cabinet to reaffirm and defend the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a secular state with Islamic as the official religion.

Instead, the MCA, Gerakan, PPP and MIC Ministers appeared to have given full and blind endorsement to the Prime Ministerís announcement at the Gerakan national delegates conference on September 29 that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.

For over four decades, one Prime Minister after another had assured Malaysians and the world that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion.

The Cabinet should not just reject the proposal to invite Al Azhar ulamas to Malaysia to assess its Islamic state status, but reaffirm and defend the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as the official religion.

(20/11/2001)



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman