The Constitutionally Illiterate Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail

7 06 2017

In a FMT’s article, “Did Zahid call Malaysia an Islamic state?” Tawfik attacks the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for calling Malaysia an Islamic state; because according to Tawfik, Malaysia is a secular country with Islam only as its official religion. 

That makes me wonder if Tawfik Ismail, who Free Malaysia Today (FMT) referred as “a prominent opponent of theocratic governance”, has ever read the Federal Constitution or understands the definition of the word secular.

A member of a liberal group called G25, Tawfik had made uncalled statements before such as urging JAKIM to be abolished.

Below are my answers (in blue) to Tawfik’s statements (in red) as published by FMT.


PETALING JAYA: A prominent opponent of theocratic governance, Tawfik Ismail, has questioned whether Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was calling the country an Islamic state during a recent breaking of fast gathering in Alor Setar.

He said Zahid would be wrong if it was true that he rejected the notion that Malaysia was a secular state.

Contrary to Tawfik’s accusation, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is right by calling the country an Islamic state and rejected the notion that Malaysia is or was a secular state. It is Tawfik who is constitutionally illiterate for rejecting the notion that Malaysia is an Islamic state and instead, claiming that our country is a secular state.

He was referring to a Bernama report that quoted the deputy prime minister as saying that those who claimed this country was secular should first have a look at the Federal Constitution. He said the constitution placed Islam as the official religion and referred to the country as a Muslim country.

I wonder if Bernama made a mistake in reporting when it wrote that the Deputy Prime Minister says, “the Constitution placed Islam as the official religion” because Berita Harian quoted Zahid saying that the Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the Federation. The Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia says:

Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

Please note that the Constitutions says “Islam is the religion of the Federation and not ‘the official religion’. Adding the word “official” is a slender to the federal Constitution as it distorts the notion of the Article 3(1).

“It would be more accurate to call the country a Muslim-majority country. That would be factual,” Tawfik told FMT.

It is factual that Malaysia is an Islamic country, and also a Muslim-majority country. 

“The constitution and the doctrine of separation of powers, the sultans’ role as heads of religion in their respective states, the notion of equality under the law, the right of everyone to stand for public office regardless of race or religion all guarantee that Malaysia is a secular country.”

Tawfik’s problem is, he does not understand the definition of a secularism which means the separation of religion and state. His above statement does not define a secular country. 

Tawfik, who is a former Umno member and one-term MP of Sungai Benut, said Islam’s position as the country’s official religion gave little support to the argument that the country wasn’t secular.

Tawfik must first read the Federal Constitution before making any statement regarding the Federal Constitution. The Federal Constitution, in Article 3(1) enshrines Islam as the religion of the Federation and not as the official religion of our nation. 

“I think it means the sovereign or king is Muslim and therefore Islam is considered the official religion, just like the Queen in England is head of the church.

Tawfik must first study the Federal Constitution before talking about constitutional issues.

“You could say ours is a hybrid system because we have many races practising many religions allowed under the constitution. Just because the majority of Malaysians are Malays and Malays are defined under the constitution as Muslims, making Islam the dominant religion, it doesn’t dominate other faiths.”

In the High Court decision of the case, Meor Atiqulrahman bin Ishak & Ors v Fatimah Sihi & Ors[2000]  1 MLJ 393, the then Justice Mohd Noor Abdullah had clearly clarified that the Federal Constitution has provided that other religions have no equal standing as Islam:

In my opinion, “Islam is the religion of the Federation but other religions may be practied in peace and harmony” means that Islam is the main religion among other religions that are practied in the country such as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others. Islam is not equal to any other religion, not sitting together or stand upright. It sits on top, he walked past, located in the field and his voice heard. Islam is like teak trees – tall, strong and skilled. If not so Islam is not the religion of the Federation but is one among several religions practised in the country and everyone is equally free to practice any religion he professes, no more one than the other. Provisions ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation’ shall be defined and reviewed with the objective to read other provisions of the Constitution, especially Article 89, 152, 153 and 14.

Bebas spokesperson Azrul Khalib also spoke on the matter, agreeing that the constitution did not put Islam in a position to dominate other religions.

Since when does a Bebas or any NGO leader is given the rights to redefine and reinterpret the supreme law of our country? It is a mind-blowing to see FMT using just a mere opinion of an NGO leader who is not even a constitutional expert to define the Federal Constitution.

“It’s important to realise that nowhere does the constitution ever intend for the country to be an Islamic state,” he told FMT.

The Malay rulers as the stakeholders of the Federation have never intent for the country to become a secular state. In fact the word secular or anything related to secularism is not even mentioned in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

In the conclusion of the judgement of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor, where The Right Honourable Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif said that:

”Taking the Federal Constitution as a whole, it is clear that it was the intention of the framers of our Constitution to allow Muslims in this country to be also governed by Islamic personal law”.

And to further prove that Malaysia was meant to be an Islamic state and not a secular state, the Federal Constitution has Articles such as Article 11(4), Article 12(2), Article 37, Article 121(1A), and more.

“At the end of the day, it needs to be emphasised that the position of Islam as the official religion of the federation should not be a reference or a tool to bludgeon people of other religions into submitting to Islam.”

Islam is the religion of the Federation. Only constitutionally illiterate people think that Islam is the official religion of the federation; so there is no such thing as “using the position of Islam as the official religion of the federation should not be a reference or a tool to bludgeon people of other religions into submitting to Islam.”

He said that as much as it was important to look at the constitution to see that the country was a secular state, people should also look at court rulings affirming this.

The Federal Constitution has never said that Malaysia is a secular country. In fact, it is the government’s constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of Islam which is in itself denies that Malaysia is a secular country. This is proven by the Court of Appeal judgement of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Kerajaan Malaysia & Menteri Dalam Negeri, when YA Dato’ Abdul Aziz Rahim said:

I would add however that the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation, to my mind imposes certain obligation on the power that be to promote and defend Islam as well to protect its sanctity. In one article written by Muhammad Imam, entitled Freedom of Religion under Federal Constitution of Malaysia – A Reappraisal [1994] 2 CLJ lvii (June) referred to by the learned counsel for the 8th appellant it was said that: “Article 3 is not a mere declaration. But it imposes positive obligation on the Federation to protect, defend, promote Islam and to give effect by appropriate state action, to the injunction of Islam and able to facilitate and encourage people to hold their life according to the Islamic injunction spiritual and daily life.”

In the Federal Court judgement of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor, The Right Honourable Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif said:

“Thus, in the present case, we are of the view that Article 10 of the Federal Constitution must be read in particular with Articles 3(1), 11, 74(2) and 121. Article 3(1) declares Islam as the religion of the Federation. Article 11 guarantees every person’s right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it. With regard to propagation, there is a limitation imposed by Article 11(4) which reads:-

“(4) State Law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”

In a secular state, the government has no constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of a particular religion.

“The supremacy of secular law in Malaysia was upheld in 1988 in the Supreme Court case of Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor in which the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the death penalty for drug trafficking was unconstitutional for offending the principles of Islam,” he said.

“The court said Article 3 of the Federal Constitution recognises Islam as the religion of the federation but it does not allude to Malaysia being an Islamic state, confirming that the country is secular.

This is another lame argument used by people who are trying to spin the fact that Malaysia is an Islamic state. In the judgement of the case Che Omar bin Che Soh v. Public Prosecutor, Tun Salleh Abas has never said that Malaysia is a secular state; alas he only said that Malaysia still uses the secular laws.

Today, there are other new judgments of more important cases that clearly state that Malaysia is an Islamic state such as Meor Atiqulrahman bin Ishak & Ors v Fatimah Sihi & Ors[2000]  1 MLJ 393, Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Kerajaan Malaysia & Menteri Dalam Negeri,  ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor and others.

“We need to remember the second part of Article 3, which reads ‘Islam is the religion of the federation, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the federation.’ Therefore, Article 3 should not be used to impose dominance on non-Muslims or insist on religious superiority.”

The words “in peace and harmony” have been interpreted by the then Federal Court Judge, Tan Sri Apandi Ali during the judgement of the Court of Appeal case of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Menteri Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia. His words were:

It is my judgment that the purpose and intention of the insertion of the words: “in peace and harmony” in Article 3(1) is to protect the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the country and also to insulate against any threat faced or any possible and probable threat to the religion of Islam.

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Bila Liberal Mengajar Apa Itu Islam

11 11 2015

Former Deputy Prime Minister’s grandchild, Tariq Ismail defended Tawfik Ismail’s uncalled statement to abolish JAKIM that had angered the Muslims in this country – please click here.

Asking Tawfik Ismail to simply apologise or face dire consequences is wrong. He did not question the sanctity of Islam. – Tariq Ismail via TMI

He was referring to PERKASA’s call for Tawfik Ismail to apologise to JAKIM and the Muslims.

Perkasa menggesa agar Tawfik Ismail segera memohon maaf kepada JAKIM dan umat Islam agar tidak berlaku implikasi yang negatif kepada beliau,” katanya dalam satu kenyataan di sini, hari ini. – Astro Awani

Before I go on, I must say that I do not agree with what TMI wrote as “face dire consequences” as the translation from “agar tidak berlaku implikasi yang negatif.”

Tawfik, in his interview with TMI did question the sanctity of Islam when he accused JAKIM as “seems to serve no other purpose than to intervene in the personal lives of Malaysians” for performing the duty to uphold Islam.

Is Tawfik not questioning the sanctity of Islam when he implies that it is right for the Muslims to return to the time when people drinks brandy and whisky during meetings and own dogs?

Denying Islamic rules, means that one is questioning the sanctity of Islam.

Saying something that is haram as alright and something that is wajib as wrong in the context of Islam is questioning the sanctity of Islam.

Tawfik is against of, “tried to infuse their definition of “Islamic values” into every aspect of Malaysian life” – if he was referring to JAKIM’s definition of Islamic values which is of the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah, Tawfik again is questioning the sanctity of Islam.

Apart from defending Tawfik’s arguments about JAKIM, Tariq also had bad thing to say about the Syariah Court:

Currently, we have a Shariah Court that sometimes does not seek to uphold justice; those with money and influence have corrupted the sanctity of this institution. – TMI

Tawfik must not only apologise to JAKIM and the Muslims but more importantly he must bertaubat to Allah or repent and get his akidah right; and if Tariq agrees with Tawfik’s liberal thinking then he too must get his akidah right.

As I wrote in my previous post,Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail Wants Jakim Abolished,” Tawfik is so confused about Islam and he needs help from JAKIM to go back to the true path of Islam.

We have to follow the real teaching of Islam.

In Malaysia, we are the Muslims of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah from the Shafie school of thought or madhhab, so this is the guideline followed by JAKIM.

The true teaching of Islam is always relevant, therefore it must never be evolved or liberalised by anybody.





Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail Wants Jakim Abolished

9 11 2015

Today TMI publishes an article regarding their interview with former Deputy Prime Minister’s son, Tawfik Ismail who is another member of G25, about the religious authorities in Malaysia.

Tawfik who is Tun Dr. Ismail’s eldest son said that he wants the days when JAKIM did not exist and ‘no one batted an eye when Muslims owned dogs’.

It is so sad to see a son of a great and good man turning into a liberal who are against the religious authorities in Malaysia.

G25 ‘attacked’ the religious authorities in its open letter dated December 7, 2014.

I’ll try to answer Tawfik’s uncalled and rude statement; TMI’s article is in red and my answer is in blue.

There was a time in the country’s history when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) did not exist, Putrajaya did not tell Malaysians how to practise their faith, and no one batted an eye when Muslims owned dogs.

And the former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman’s eldest son, Tawfik Ismail, wants those days back.

I am very sad if that is what Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman’s eldest son, Tawfik Ismail really wants. He is a Muslim but he does not want the Islamic authorities to uphold Islam; very odd. He seems to be confused about Islam and he needs help from JAKIM to go back to the right path of Islam.

The main step is to dissolve Jakim, Tawfik said during an interview in conjunction with the release of “Drifting into Politics”, a collection of his late father’s writings during the nation’s formative years, edited by Tawfik and academic Ooi Kee Beng.

Jakim was created during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s time and seems to serve no other purpose than to intervene in the personal lives of Malaysians, Tawfik told The Malaysian Insider when met at his house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

“I think Jakim should be abolished. I don’t think Jakim should exist. What is the government afraid of? You have 13 muftis with 13 different fatwas and 13 different ways of approaching it (religion).

Abolish JAKIM? Tawfik Ismail does not understand the function of JAKIM. Article 37 says that the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong must take his oath to protect the religion of Islam before exercising his functions. JAKIM is one of the authorities appointed to carry the duty to protect Islam and uphold Islam on behalf of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. (Please click here for the oath.)

As an Islamic country, we have different Islamic authorities and each has its own duty. It will be impossible for the mufti do everything.

“What is the purpose of Jakim? Halal certificates? That can go to the health ministries, trade ministry. What else does Jakim do? Print the Quran? We have a communications minister,” said the softspoken, yet candid, 64-year-old former MP.

Do not belittle JAKIM for protecting and upholding Islam. Regarding the halal certificates, it is a very serious matter to the Muslims, not only in Malaysia but all over the world. In fact JAKIM’s halal certificates are recognised by Muslim bodies all over the world. The health or trade ministries cannot certify that something is halal because they are not Islamic experts.

Naysayers may argue that Jakim is needed to “protect” the sanctity of Islam, but Tawfik was quick to point out that the Agong, sultans, imams (Muslim scholars) and muftis already filled that void.

The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Sultans, imams and the muftis have their duties to protect the sanctity of Islam and so is JAKIM. JAKIM as the Federal Islamic authority, works under the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong while the muftis are under the State authorities, working under their respective Sultans.

“Jakim is an advisory body to the government, but constitutionally it really has no role. Islam is the province of the sultan of the state, it has nothing to do with the government.”

I do not agree with the above statement. Malaysia is an Islamic country, because Islam is the religion of the Federation as written in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution. And constitutionally, JAKIM has a role to uphold Article 3(1) and carry the duty of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong as in Article 37(1) to protect Islam.

So which areas of Muslim life should the government intervene in? Tawfik flat-out said nothing at all.

“National integration in this country is the biggest challenge. How do you integrate the nation if you are going around this route of looking for faults among Muslims?” he asked.

But, Tawfik clarified that his views on dismantling Jakim were his own, and that G25, the group of retired Malay top civil servants of which he is a member, did not share them.

Please understand our Federal Constitution. In the judgment of ZI Publications v Government of Selangor, The Right Honourable Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Md Raus bin Sharif concluded that:

Taking the Federal Constitution as a whole, it is clear that it was the intention of the framers of our Constitution to allow Muslims in this country to be also governed by Islamic personal law. Thus, a Muslim in this country is therefore subjected to both the general laws enacted by Parliament and also the State laws enacted by the Legislature of a State.

G25 does, however, want Jakim to justify its existence as well as the hundreds of millions of ringgit it receives from the federal budget each year, which he said could have been funnelled to the Health or Education Ministry instead.

The Government allocated funds to all federal departments, including the Islamic authorities. The problem is, why is Tawfik against the Islamic department getting allocation from the federal budget? Is Islam not important to him? As a Muslim he must put Islam above everything else in his life.

“I think there’s a subversion of the constitution by religious authorities at the state level where they are actually testing the limits that they can go in intruding on a person’s personal life,” he added.

It’s to fix a person’s belief or akidah, not ‘intruding on a person’s personal life’.

Putrajaya had not always acted as the defender of the people’s faith, revealed Tawfik, who served as MP from 1986 to 1990.

He said that during the time of Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, only a small religious department existed in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Our Islamic authorities are doing their best to protect Islam and the akidah of the Muslims in Malaysia. As a Malaysian, he must be proud to see the small religious department grows into what it is now and hope it will be better in the future and not the other way around. 

There was no minister of religious affairs, and no national outcry over the fact that his father, Tun Dr Ismail, owned a dog.

“My dad had a Boxer, and, before that, an Alstatian,” recalled Tawfik.

He said all this changed after Dr Mahathir took over and his then deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, tried to infuse their definition of “Islamic values” into every aspect of Malaysian life.

People must not be proud of doing things against their religions. He is a liberalist but he cannot expect other Muslims to be liberal because it is against Islam. Spreading liberal teaching to the Muslims is against the Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution.

It is good to promote Islamic values into every aspect of Malaysian life. Islam is not only ritual but Islam is the way of life. And every Muslim must be subjected to the Islamic laws.

This was done to counter the growing influence of PAS, which had never been an issue during the early years of Independence, said Tawfik.

As a result, Malaysia today is now facing “Arabisation”, with society eschewing its Nusantara roots in favour of appropriating the culture of the Middle East, he said.

What does he mean by Arabisation? Is it the Muslim clothing and way of life? Then why didn’t he complain about Westernisation; where people wear miniskirts, coats, ties and others? If he wants to preserve our Nusantara roots, we should also put away the Western way of life. Is it alright for him when the “society eschewing its Nusantara roots in favour of appropriating the culture of the” West?

“We seem to be delighting in coming up with creative ways of ‘speaking’ Arabic in this country.”

Arabic is the language of the Qur’an. It’s very important to learn Arabic and it’s also good to learn other languages. I’m learning German. Why didn’t he complain about Malays learning Chinese, or Indian, or even European languages like German?

Tawfik said it was for this reason that Drifting Into Politics may not sit very well with Putrajaya.

“Certain things my father says here are quite interesting.

“For example, he said whenever Tunku had a meeting at his house with a group of people… occasionally one or two of them would go into the kitchen and have a drink of brandy and whisky, then come back and join in. He admits this.

Is he proud of that? First, brandy and whisky are against Islam. Secondly. even non-Muslims must not drink alcohol during meetings, because how can one focus with the effect of alcohol? I can’t imagine having a country led by people who drink brandy and whisky during important meetings.

“Yes, it’s an open secret, but it’s never been in writing by a leader,” chuckled Tawfik.

His father died in 1973 at the age of 57, after just three years of serving as deputy prime minister. November 4 was his 100th birth anniversary.

With such records in existence, no matter how it tried to Islamise Malaysia, Tawfik said, the government would never be able to rewrite history nor erase its roots. – November 9, 2015.

As a Muslim, even if that is true, he must not be proud of something haram. I pity his father who was a good man.

Tawfik should learn history. Malaysia came from Malaya, and before that, the Federated Malay States which was formed from nine different sovereign Islamic countries; the sovereign Malay States. He should attend one of Datin Paduka Datuk Professor Dr. Ramlah Adam’s talk, then he can understand more about our roots.








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