For my 14th birthday this year, my eldest sister gave me a law textbook entitled “A First Look at the Malaysian Legal System”, written by Wan Arfah Hamzah and published by Oxford Fajar.
I was very excited to receive a book on the subject that is close to my heart, and so I began reading the book.
As I reached the fourth paragraph of page four, I noticed something peculiar:
“The federation is a secular state (see below, pp 162-3). It is not an Islamic state (an indispensable feature of which is the supremacy of the Syariah or Islamic law). In Malaysia the supreme law is the Federal Constitution (Article 4), not the Syariah or the Islamic law. Far from being the supreme law, Islamic law is not even the basic of the law of the land, ie the law of the general application. The basic law of Malaysia is the common law—the principles of which have their origins in England”
~Page 4 – A First Look at the Malaysian Legal System
It is very alarming that a law text book can make such a dreadful mistake in defining the core principal of our country.
The point is, does the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the Federation, ever define Malaysia as a secular country?
To understand more about secular countries, please click here for: “Malaysia Bukan Sekular“
In “The Principles of Secularism”, the author and creator of the term ‘secularism’ George Jacob Holyoake defines secularism as separating government and religion; while Merriam-Webster defines secularism as “the belief that religion should not play a role in government, education, or other public parts of society”.
In reference to the ideology of our country, the Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution states that:
Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions maybe practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
In actual fact, without doubt, the Article 3(1) automatically denies any claim that says Malaysia is a secular state; for a country cannot be a secular state when it has a specific state religion, in this case Islam which makes Malaysia an Islamic state.
Anybody who reads the Federal Constitution, will find out that the word “secular” has never been mentioned in the Federal Constitution but Islam is mentioned again and again through out the Constitution, proving the importance of Islam as the basic structures of the Constitution.
The Federal Constitution must be read as a whole and no provision can be considered in isolation, as stated by then President of the Court of Appeal Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif in the Federal Court case of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor:
It is an established principle of constitutional construction that no one provision of the Federal Constitution can be considered in isolation. That particular provision must be brought into view with all the other provisions bearing upon that particular subject. This Court in Danaharta Urus Sdn Bhd v Kekatong Sdn Bhd & Anor  2 MLJ 257, applied the principle of considering the Constitution as a whole in determining the true meaning of a particular provision. This Court held:-
“A study of two or more provisions of a Constitution together in order to arrive at the true meaning of each of them is an established rule of constitutional construction. In this regard it is pertinent to refer to Bindra’s Interpretaion of Statue 7th Ed which says at page 947-948″
It is absurd to conclude that Malaysia is a secular country because of “the supreme law is the Federal Constitution (Article 4), not the Syariah or the Islamic law” for the Article 4 in no way dispute the constitutionality of the Article 3(1); and the fact that Malaysia has both the civil and the Syariah Court systems proves that Malaysia is not a secular country.
The fact is, it is the Article 4 that intensify the fact that Malaysia is an Islamic country because Islam as the religion of the Federation is placed in the Article 3(1) which is in a higher order of precedence of the Articles than the Article 4.
Therefore it gives Islam a higher position than the supreme law itself, meaning the supreme law of the land must be read and interpreted subjected to Islam as the religion of the Federation as mentioned by the then Federal Court Judge, Tan Sri Apandi Ali in the Court of Appeal judgement of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v. Kementrian Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia, also known as the Kalimah Allah case:
The Article places the religion of Islam at par with the other basic structures of the Constitution, as it is the 3 rd in the order of precedence of the Articles that were within the confines of Part I of the Constitution
In answering the argument regarding the intention of the Reid Commission, first we have to understand that it is the Royal Rulers and not the Reid Commission who are the real stake holders of our country.
The Reid Commission was only given the responsibilities to draft the Federal Constitution but it is the Malay Royal Rulers who had the rights to make the final say on the matter as well as to give the endorsements for the words to be written in the Federal Constitution.
It is vital to note that both the Reid Commission and the Cobbold Commission are neither law makers nor the state holders of our country, hence their words and intentions are not laws, therefore their intentions cannot change the words written in the supreme law of our Nation.
As for claiming that Che’ Omar bin Che’ Soh v. Public Prosecutor defines Malaysia as a secular country, this is a very lame argument with no valid fact to justify the claim.
In the Supreme Court decision of Che Omar Che Soh v Public Prosecutor (1988) 2 MLJ 55, the Judge, Tun Salleh Abbas only said that Malaysia follows the secular laws from the British, and did not say that Malaysia is a secular state; so how could this case be used to prove something that was not even stated in the judgement?
Furthermore, this is an old case which is no longer a good law.
We must look at the judgments of other more important and prominent later court cases including the Court of Appeal case of Meor Atiqulrahman bin Ishak & Ors v Fatimah Binti Sihi & Ors, High Court case of Lina Joy v Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan, Federal and Court of Appeal case of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v Kementerian Dalam Negeri & Kerajaan Malaysia, Federal Court case of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor and a lot more that clearly prove that Malaysia is an Islamic country.
In fact, the fact that it is the government’s constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of Islam also 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  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 a secular state, not only the government has no constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of a particular religion, but it is wrong for the government to do so.
Apart from Article 3(1), the Articles 11(4), 12(2), 37, 121(1A) and a lot more further prove that Malaysia is and was meant to be an Islamic state and not a secular state; unless the book tries to redefine ‘secularism’ or implying that the Articles 3(1), 1(4), 12(2), 37, 121(1A) and others related to Islam are unconstitutional.
Such severe mistake in the law textbook regarding the ideology of our country that contradicts the Federal Constitution should not have happened because all Malaysian must respect and uphold the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and making such a mistake regarding the core principle of our country is really uncalled for.
We surely do not need constitutionally illiterate lawyers!