KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is not a secular state because it was historically set up based on an Islamic Malay Sultanate government, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Jamil Khir Baharom.
Under this, he said the Sultans were the heads of Islam in their own states.
Dr Jamil Khir said Article 3 of the Federal Constitution clearly stated that Islam was the religion of the Federation although others were free to profess their own faith.
"This position is further expounded through other provisions under the Constitution that guarantees this," he said in a written reply to Oscar Ling (DAP - Sibu).
He then cited Articles 11, 12 and 121 which, among others, stated that the civil courts shall have no jurisdiction in matters relating to the Syariah courts and that it was lawful for the state or the federation to maintain or assist Islamic institutions.
"Therefore, our situation differs from that of secular state countries which do not have a state religion but allow their citizens to profess their respective faiths.
"Their religion is separated and it is their personal practice," Dr Jamil Khir told Ling, who had asked the Government to state if Malaysia was a secular or Islamic country.
He also asked if hudud law contradicted the Constitution and whether the Government intended to implement this.
Dr Jamil Khir said according to Clause 2 of Article 74 and other provisions, Islamic laws were under the purview of the state governments and only applicable to Muslims.
While the Government was aware of the PAS-led Kelantan government's intention to implement its Syariah criminal laws, he said existing laws must be examined to ensure this was in line with the Constitution and other legislation before it could be carried out.
"In this matter, the Government is always working on the approach of gradually ensuring the implementation of Syariah criminal laws, including expanding the jurisdiction of Syariah courts, upgrading its judiciary system and reviewing the position of Syariah judges," he said.
In the lobby, Chong Chieng Jen (DAP - Bandar Kuching) said the minister was wrong as Malaysia was a secular state as declared by a Federal Court decision which had yet to be overturned.
Gobind Singh Deo (DAP - Puchong) called on the King to invoke Article 30 of the Constitution to refer the matter to the Federal Court for its opinion, saying: "This is a matter of public importance. There is a need for clarity as it involves the Federal Constitution."