A revealing summary of how non-Muslims in supposedly moderate Malaysia still are denied equality of rights with Muslims. From Biography.ms, with thanks to Bamsterkins:
The constitution of Malaysia provides for freedom of religion, although Islam is the official religion. However, there exist certain laws and practices which in effect discriminate against non-Muslims in Malaysia….
In September 2001, the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad declared that the country was an Islamic state (negara Islam). The opposition leader at the time, Lim Kit Siang, is actively seeking support to declare Mahathir’s move as unconstitutional by repeatedly clarifying that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as its official religion as enshrined in the Constitution. However, the coalition government headed by Mahathir at the time held more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament. It requires a two-thirds majority vote for constitutional amendments in Malaysia. No proposed constitutional amendments by the Barisan Nasional government have ever failed to pass parliament since the Barisan Nasional came into power in 1957 until the time of the remarks.
Government funds support an Islamic religious establishment (the Government also grants limited funds to non-Islamic religious communities), and it is official policy to “infuse Islamic values” into the administration of the country.
The nation mantains two parallel justice systems in the country. One is the conventional justice system based upon laws gazetted by parliament. The other is syariah or Islamic law. Ostensibly syariah courts only have jurisdiction over persons who declare themselves to be Muslims. Consequently, this results in non-Muslims not having legal standing in syariah courts. Where decisions of the syariah court affect a non-Muslim, she can seek recourse in the secular courts who theoretically trump the syariah courts. However, this has often resulted in complications.
The rules of Syaria are set by the various sultans of the states. Historically a sultan had absolute authority over the state. Prior to independence Tunku Abdul Rahman got the sultans to cede authority to the federal government. One of the terms of this agreement is that the sultans still are the ultimate authority of Islamic law in their respective states.
Constitutionally, one of the four tests for being Malay in Malaysia is that one must be a Muslim. Therefore, all Malays are regarded to fall under Islamic law. The rationale for this is that Islam is considered intrinsic to Malay ethnic identity.
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