1. What is an Islamic State? I have been accused of being inconsistent on this issue. May I explain.
2. There are many interpretations of what constitutes an Islamic state. There are many states which call themselves Islamic and many which are recognised as Islamic without having “Islamic” before their names. Their Islamic credentials are not always the same. Some actually declare themselves to be secular states but are nevertheless considered Islamic.
3. In the OIC there are more than 50 states but they do not have the same constitution or laws to qualify as Islamic. They may not even have a constitution, written or otherwise.
4. When I claimed that Malaysia is an Islamic country I was comparing it with those Islamic countries whose application of Islamic laws and injunctions appear to be less rigid. But then Islamic laws and injunctions are not as rigid as some Muslims would have us believe. Islam allows for some looseness or differences of interpretation so that Islam can be practiced under different circumstances and in different parts of the world at different periods in history. Some things are however inviolable e.g. the declaration of faith in the one Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.
5. Most states which claim to be Islamic do not apply hudud laws. They apply the syariah for most things involving family and social affairs and practices. Islam as Ad Deen, as a way of life, prescribes the correct and acceptable ways of conducting personal, family and social life. These syariah laws help keep relations within the Muslim society and between Muslims and non-Muslims largely free of conflicts and misunderstandings. In Islam there is no compulsion. Islam acknowledges the existence of non-believers and specifically enjoin upon us Muslims to accept that we pray (and do things) our own way while non-believers pray and do things their way. The verse (Al Khafirun) conclude by saying, “To them their religion, to us our religion.”
6. Justice is very important in Islam. There are 43 verses which enjoin upon Muslims to “judge with justice”. There is no injunction to do justice only to Muslims and not to the non-Muslims. Certainly there is nothing in the syariah enjoining injustice for Muslims.
7. In multi-religious Malaysia because applying the hudud laws to Muslims and not to non-Muslims would cause injustice to Muslims, in the interest of upholding Islamic justice for all we have not implemented hudud laws. Islam is not so rigid that injustice should be ignored in carrying out what is enjoined by the shariah.
8. Other than this, Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and we do not obstruct Muslims from practising the teachings of Islam. If we do not apply hudud laws it is not because we reject it, but because we are enjoined to uphold justice. To cut off the hands of Muslims for stealing while non-Muslim thieves would only get two months jail cannot be regarded as just. The sentence must be the same for both.
9. If we cut the hands of non-Muslims in order to be just we may bring about chaos and havoc in the country. Allah does not like people who cause chaos and havoc in society.
10. In not applying hudud laws in Malaysia we are truly adhering to the teachings of Islam. Our claim to be an Islamic country is therefore valid.
11. There is no inconsistency in the claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state. It may not say so in the constitution or in its name. But in its beliefs and practices it is Islamic.
12. Malaysia never declared itself to be a secular state in its constitution or anywhere else. That is because we respect all religions and their believers. Secular states ban religions. We saw this in Communist countries before. But today everyone practices religious freedom and this is compatible with Islam.