Malaysia’s hosting the 10th OIC Summit  does not make it an Islamic State just as Senegal’s hosting of the 6th OIC Summit had not affected its constitutional position as a “secular republic” with 94 per cent Senegalese as Muslims

Media Conference Statement
when launching the DAP’s 46th National Day Celebrations and the “Defend Secular Malaysia” campaign in Tanjong parliamentary constituency
Lim Kit Siang

(PenangMonday): At the Gerakan 32nd National Delegates Conference on Saturday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said the world had recognized Malaysia as an Islamic State since he made the “929 Declaration” at the Gerakan National Delegates Conference on Sept. 29, 2001, and this was why Malaysia was asked to organize the 10th Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit  in October. (NST & Sin Chew) 

This is most misleading and incorrect.  There is no  pre-condition for a country  hosting an OIC Summit to be an Islamic state nor does  Malaysia’s hosting the 10th OIC Summit  make it   an Islamic State,  just as Senegal’s hosting of the 6th OIC Summit in Dakar in December 1991  had not affected its constitutional position as a “secular republic” despite having  94 per cent  Senegalese belonging to the Muslim faith. 

The following extracts from the 2002 International Religious Freedom Report issued by the United States Department of State on  October 7, 2002 on Senegal  bear this out: 

I. Religious Demography

“The country has a total area of 74,132 square miles, and its population is 9,987,494. According to current government demographic data, Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 94 percent of the country's population. There also is an active Christian community (4 percent), including Roman Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations. An estimated 2 percent, the remainder of the population, practice exclusively traditional indigenous religions or no religion.

“II. Status of Religious Freedom

“The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion; the Constitution specifically defines the country as a secular state and provides for the free practice of religious beliefs, provided that public order is maintained.

“Religious organizations can receive direct financial and material assistance from the Government. While there is no official system of government grants, the importance of religion in society often results in the Government providing grants to religious groups to maintain their places of worship or undertake special events. The Government also provides funds through the Ministry of Education to schools operated by religious institutions that meet national education standards. In practice Christian schools, which have a long and successful experience in education, receive the largest share of this government funding."

There are three  other reasons why there is no connection at all between the OIC and the Islamic State, viz:

  1. Secular states like Turkey, Mali, Indonesia, Guinea, Niger and Saddam’s Iraq had hosted important OIC meetings, like the OIC Conference of  Foreign Ministers (CFM), like the 28th OIC CFM  in Bamako, Mali 2001, the 24th CFM in Jakarta, Indonesia  in 1996, the 23rd CFM in Conarky, Guinea in 1995,  the 20th CFM in Istanbul, Turkey in 1991, the 13th CFM in Niamey, Niger in 1982, the 12th CFM in Baghdad in 1981, the 9th CFM in Dakar, Senegal in 1978 and  the 7th CFM in Istanbul, Turkey in 1976. Kuala Lumpur hosted two CFMs,  the 5th in 1974 and the 27th in 2000, and nobody claimed that this had made Malaysia into an Islamic state!
  2. Bapa Malaysia and first Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was the first secretary-general of the OIC  from 1971-1973. He never claimed that this made Malaysia an Islamic state. In fact, he never wavered from his stand that Malaysia was conceived as  a secular and not an Islamic state, with Islam as the official religion – and  he chose this  as his special message at  his 80th birthday dinner hosted by the Barisan Nasional on February 8, 1983 to remind Barisan Nasional leaders and the country  “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State”.
  3. The Charter of the OIC adopted in 1972, like the Holy Quran, made no mention of  “Islamic state”.

In fact, there had been occasions in OIC Summits where non-Muslim heads of member countries had attended to represent their respective countries – underlining the important point that the OIC Summit is not a gathering of heads of Islamic States in the world but member nations  of the OIC, comprising both secular and Islamic states.

For these reasons, Barisan Nasional and UMNO leader should stop using the fallacious argument that Malaysia’s hosting of the 10th OIC Summit in Putrajaya in October has made the nation into an Islamic State or was because Malaysia had been recognized  internationally as an Islamic State, running counter to the founding principles of the nation as embedded in the “social contract” of the forefathers of the major communities on the attainment of Independence, the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the 1970 Rukunegara.

Furthermore,  if Malaysia is an independent, sovereign and democratic nation, then the question whether Malaysia is an Islamic State is not to e decided by other countries but can only be decided by the 23 million Malaysians in the light of the of the “social contract”, the Merdeka Constitution, the Malaysia Agreement and the Rukunegara!


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman