By Lancelot Theseira | The Vibes
As the majority of Malaysia’s 32 million population subscribe to the Islamic faith, the post of Prime Minister should only be held by a Muslim and this should be enshrined in the Federal Constitution, said PAS senator Khairil Nizam Khirudin.
Through postings on his social media, he has urged the government to table a constitutional amendment towards implementing this matter.
Khairil denied that this is a populist or extremist move, saying instead that it is necessary for the law to preserve the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the federation.
The PAS information chief also claimed that restricting the nation’s highest political office to a Muslim is already practised by the states of Terengganu, Kedah, Negri Sembilan, Perlis, and Pahang.
Cadangan saya ini bukan populis atau ekstremis tetapi kerana menyedari hakikat bahawa Islam adalah agama persekutuan yang perlu terus ditegakkan dan diperlihara kesuciannya. pic.twitter.com/cY9Y1M4Nbt— Ir. Ts. Khairil Nizam (@IrKhairilNizam) March 24, 2022
Although Khairil vehemently denies that his statement is racist, constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew begs to differ.
While acknowledging the legality of such a constitutional amendment were it to be law, he said that “even though a law is legal, it doesn’t mean that it is not racist or discriminatory”.
Citing examples of apartheid South Africa and Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany, he contended that legality does not justify discriminatory acts.
New also expresses doubt over Khairil’s claims that the position of Menteri Besar is restricted to Muslims in some states. He went on to say that he views the issue as political rather than legal.
Such a policy would undermine the system
Meanwhile, former law professor Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar fears that such a law would fundamentally contradict Malaysia’s system of government.
As per the Federal Constitution, the Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament (MP) who, in the view of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.
However, if someone were to be appointed to the post purely because of their faith, it would “undermine the whole basis upon which the Westminster model of democracy functions,” he told The Vibes.
Gurdial, who is also president of the National Human Rights Society, explained that such a law would go on to cause further complications.
He warned that if someone without a majority in Parliament helms the government, he could later face a vote of no-confidence in the august House, thus jeopardising his position and the government entirely.
Gurdial also stressed that the concept of majority rule is crucial to allow the processes of Parliament to proceed smoothly.
Khairil’s statement, posted on Thursday, has garnered a variety of different reactions across social media platforms.
On Twitter, the statement was widely panned with many accusing him of playing up religious sentiments in the run-up to the general election.
One user with the name xxasaini said: “He’s barely finished riding religious sentiment, now he wants to ride the constitution… Damn donkey!”
Another alleged that the Islamist party was pretending to protect Islam while remaining mum on corruption.
A user named mauludfarid said “There’s no use if the PM is Muslim if there’s still corruption and abuse of power”.
However, on Facebook, the sentiment was vastly different as a majority of the 144 comments on Khairil’s post as of press time supported his call.
“I agree wholeheartedly. This is great!” read a comment by Halimah Saadiah.
One user, Muhammad Firdaus Zainal, argued that the law would not just show respect to Islam, but would also uphold its place in the Federal Constitution.
Another commenter named Amran Hasan said, with all capital letters: “I agree! Before other parties take advantage, we should amend the constitution. What matters is Islam!”