Abdullah’s reference to the government as Muslim-led instead of Malaysian-led reflects the subtle, little-noticed but tectonic shift in nation-building process contrary to the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” since the unconstitutional “929” Declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic State two years ago
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): There are two things which are most disturbing in the response of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the latest report of the United States Government accusing Malaysia of favouring certain religions.
The accusation was contained in the fifth annual International Religious Freedom Report 2003 released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour which listed Malaysia alongside Belarus, Eritrea, Moldova, Turkey, Brunei, Indonesia, Israel and Russia as among the nine countries with laws or policies that favoured certain religions and placed others at a disadvantage.
The report said: "There is no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. Religious minorities generally worship freely, although with some restrictions." The Malaysian Government, the report said, enforced some restrictions on the establishment of non-Muslims' places of worship and on the activities of political opponents in mosques.
First, Abdullah “abruptly cut short” the press conference when he was asked by a TV3 reporter to respond to the report after opening the Islamic Economic Development Week at the Putra World Trade Centre yesterday, saying that he was leaving and that he was in no mood to talk about other matters. (New Straits Times)
This was after he had responded: "Ask the Christians, Buddhists and Hindus who have their churches and temples here," he said. "We are going to celebrate Christmas and Chinese New Year, including organising open house for different celebrations in Malaysia."
Abdullah invited US representatives to visit Malaysia and witness the different religions practised freely here, and said: "If I had to say it myself, the representatives would not believe me."
Abdullah said Malaysia's
religious freedom was proven when its citizens celebrated together the
various festivities of the major religions.
Is the abrupt ending of the media conference a sign that after 50 days as the new Prime Minister, Abdullah is beginning to lose patience to hear diverse and unpalatable voices, whether inside or outside the country? If so, this is a very disturbing development.
The second cause for concern is Abdullah’s reference to the government as Muslim-led instead of Malaysian-led which reflects the subtle, little-noticed but tectonic shift in nation-building process contrary to the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” since the unconstitutional “929” Declaration by the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan National Delegates’ Conference that Malaysia is an Islamic State two years ago
Under the 46-year Merdeka “social contract”, nobody would be talking about a Muslim-led government, while under the “929 Declaration” of UMNO or the Islamic State Document released by PAS as its Islamic State blueprint, there will be new terminologies to define a new political landscape whether with regard to citizenship, identity or sovereignty in an Islamic State, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS – where concepts of a Malaysian-led government will give way to concepts like Muslim-led or just Islamic government.
This is why the next general election in a matter of months will be the most important in the nation’s history, as it will be deciding the future of the 46-year Merdeka “social contract”, whether the nation-founding basis of Malaysia as a secular multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion is to be reaffirmed or be replaced by a new social compact claiming that Malaysia is an Islamic state!
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman