This Utusan Malaysia editorial against a question raised by a DAP politician (about the astronomical funding given to the building of mosques) is nothing less than a blatant attempt to read self-serving meaning and intent into the Malaysian constitution where (1) no such meaning and intent exists in the wording nor spirit of the document, and (2) it selectively over-interprets certain articles while ignoring the explicit application of other articles.
Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution is crystal clear. No ambiguity. The expression of meaning is also unequivocal. Since its formulation, the clause has never been amended. Its position is conspicuous. Matters that give dignity to Islam as the federal religion is emplaced in Part 1 of the Constitution.
It is read after Article 1 on the name of Malaysia and other States and Article 2, which touches on new region in the Federation. Article 4 mentions about the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the country. The Federal Constitution is structured in such a way to reflect the importance and sanctity of Islam as the official religion of the land.
However, realizing the racial complexity in the country, Article 3(1) which states “Islam is the religion of the Federation” doesn’t end with a fullstop but a semi-colon before it continues with a phrase “but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any parts of the Federation.” Despite undergoing a process of 40 amendments since its formulation in 1956, Article 3 has literally never been touched for any revision.
Its position and privilege remains. It should be so in line with the position of the majority of its people who are Malays and professed Islam as their religion. However after 52 years of independence, there seem to be an attempt to test the position of Islam. The first attempt which was carried out openly came after a bid to question the special privileges of the bumputera, which is interpreted as the Malay supremacy.
Matters on Islam and the Malays are spelled out in the Constitution. As such, the incessant effort actually is consciously aimed at ridiculing the spirit of the Constitution. The picture is very clear. What is the purpose of the Taiping Member of Parliament from the DAP in instigating the issue if not an attempt to question the “sanctity” of the Constitution? Does it not cross his mind before distributing the statement to the media that the issue he had raised is invariably linked with the Federal Constitution? The content of the Constitution has underlined the exalted position of Islam as official religion that should be inherent with financial allocation including for the purpose of building mosques throughout the country.
What then is the purpose of Nga Kor Ming to stir up the issue? Issuing the provocative statement at a time when the communal solidarity is running thin, is nothing more than an attempt to light up the fire of hatred among the people. The statement is crafted to link other community as tax payers that should be given equal rights in all aspect including the building of houses of worship. Has Kor Ming being blind to the houses of worship of other religions which are scattered throughout the country, many of them at strategic locations? Malaysia being a Muslim country is visited by other believers during the Thaipusam festival.
Hindus from outside Malaysia came to Batu Caves to perform their religious obligation. There are temples located right in the middle of the city. In a religious festival, the giant incenses are burnt in open space without any hindrance although it goes against environmental law. The freedom is line with the provision in the Constitution which allows other religions to be practiced in the country with the condition that it is to be carried out in harmony.
When Kor Ming charged that followers of other religions are being treated as “step-child” by the government for not being given financial allocation as much as in the construction of mosques, it is a misplaced issue. Kor Ming has forgotten that in many countries which specify a certain religion as its official religion, it comes with special privileges.
In Thailand where Buddhism is the official religion doesn’t accord Muslims, who are also tax payers, the same privileges in building their mosques. Muslims in other countries had been restricted to practice their religion and many had to flee after being persecuted. Kor Ming should not have been blind with the fate of these Muslims.
What about the developed countries which claimed to practice the highest form of democracy? Are the Muslims there accorded the same so-called freedom enjoyed by others and behave disrespectfully as Kor Ming does in this country? So what is the most logical justification for Kor Ming in kicking up the issue which is contradictive to the spirit of the Constitution? If the spirit of the Constitution is to be taken literally, the government has the right not to fork out even a single cent of allocation for other religion.
However, out of respect and generosity, the government is kind enough to give out millions of ringgit in allocation for the houses of worship of other religions. But such benevolence is seen by the likes of Kor Ming with blind eyes. More worrying is the 1Malaysia slogan which is being twisted to serve their dubious interest.
Effort initiated by Kor Ming should not be allowed to continue. The repercussion will be severe. The Federal Constitution which form the foundation of a country called Malaysia must be protected at all cost and should not be made the “basis” for any outbreak of racial tension and the fall of Islam as the official religion of the country.
The WRITER is News Editor of Utusan Melayu
The editorial tries to suggest that the wording of Article 3 that "Islam is the religion of the Federation" somehow dictates (although the constitution never specifies) that "the content of the Constitution has underlined the exalted position of Islam as official religion that should be inherent with financial allocation including for the purpose of building mosques throughout the country."
1. Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
2. In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observance or ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorize the Yang di-pertuan Agong to represent him.
3. The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be Head of the religion of Islam in that State.
4. Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.
5. Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.
However, the Utusan editorial feigns ignorance of subarticle (4) of Article 3 that states "Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution."
derogateIt means that nothing in Article 3 shall limit or lessen of any other article in the constitution. This indicates to me that the writers of the constitution intended to ensure that the statement that "Islam is the religion of the federation" would not be misused and misinterpreted - by people like this Utusan editor - to mean anything more than ensuring the constitutional freedom of Muslims to practice their religion with the Agong and sultans as the protectors of that freedom.
1. to cause to seem inferior or be in disrepute; detract
2. to deviate in standard or quality; degenerate
3. to cause to seem inferior, etc.; disparage
4. (Law) to curtail the application of (a law or regulation)
In fact, this explicitly means that Article 3 does not derogate or reduce the application of Article 11.
1. Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
2. No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.
3. Every religious group has the right -
* (a) to manage its own religious affairs;
* (b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
* (c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.
4. State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
5. This Article does not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.
Article 11(2) states that: "No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own." This, Noraini Abd Razak, is what's crystal clear, free of ambiguity, unequivocally stated in no uncertain terms.
This means that TAXES COLLECTED FROM NON-MUSLIMS CANNOT BE USED TO BUILD MOSQUES! Otherwise, taxes cannot be collected from non-Muslims... period. That politician from DAP has every right to question why such RM748.26 million of taxpayer money has been used to build 611 mosques between 2000 and 2008, when the Article 11(2) expressly forbids it. We, as non-Muslim citizens of Malaysia, have every right to question why the taxes we paid have been used for the purposes of Islam, which is a religion other than our own.
So Noraini Abd Razak... if you want to talk constitution, let's talk constitution. But please limit yourself to stuff that is actually written in the constitution. Not some imaginary position, privilege or meaning that you conjured up yourself for your own racist, thieving purposes.