Secularism and the misuse of Islam

India’s Supreme Court has banned the use of religion and caste to gather votes. This is inline with the amendment to her Constitution in 1976, effectively making India a secular socialist nation.

The amendment reads “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC”.

Hence the necessity to remove all elements of religion from the administration and paths to power. The verdict came just weeks ahead of state elections in Uttar Pardesh.

Prior to this, the ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has used religion to polarise voters. With this embargo taking effect immediately, political parties would be forced to change strategies in the upcoming polls.

In contrast, Malaysia is not a secular nation by any means. The only document that can dictate the nature of a country, i.e. the Federal Constitution is absent of the word “secular”. On the contrary, article 3(1) states that, “Islam is the religion of the Federation…”. In the endeavour to claim a nation’s ideology, there are two things to consider.

First, the existence of a term associated with that particular belief, and has to be mentioned explicitly. And secondly, if another ideology is mentioned, any claim against that ideology is null and void. The Federal Constitution also obliges the Yang di-Pertuan Agung to take an oath as mentioned in article 37(1).

The existence of Syariah Courts and the Malay Kings are living proof that Malaysia is not a secular state. The Malay rulers are entrusted to safeguard Islam and Muslims in their respective territories. The emphasis on secularism would be a kin to denying the rights of the Sultans.

There are political quarters that make claims and at times defend the secular attribute of this state. Their plight is based on the pretext of Reid Commission’s report.

They continue to make efforts to change the course of the nation. Despite their secular insistence, they organise programs that are “Islamic” in nature.

It seems like an oxymoron to fight for secularism and at the same time promote “maqasid syariah”. Maqasid is Arabic for what would mean objective in English.

It does not make sense to strive for secularism but yet promote objectives of syariah. Syariah as is known by many refers to the Islamic legal system.

This act in and of itself is contradictory, hence the arising questions. What is the party’s main objective? Is it to promote secularism or on the other hand promote Syariah? The dichotomy between the two is distinct.

Garnering votes by advocating Islamic teachings while being secular in action is not fair to the voters. There is a sense of betrayal between the preaching and actual practice.

The issue here is not about politicisation of Islam, or Islamisation of politics but rather the victimisation of Islam. Islam has been the victimised by secular parties seeking Muslim votes.

Simply because the Muslims are a majority and their votes count en masse. A sad truth about the misuse of a religion for the sake of power. If only the people would put forth the Principle of Veracity before believing everything they read and/or hear.

Rehan Ahmad Bin Jamaluddin Ahmad
Insitut Kajian Strategik Islam Malaysia (IKSIM)

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