Malaysia is not the 'moderate Islamic' country as generally perceived by many foreigners but a 'fundamentalist' Islamic country, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in Parliament today.
"A lot of non-Muslim countries which consider Malaysia as moderate Islamic country. I have to explain to them that we are not 'moderate'. We are a fundamentalist Islamic country," Mahathir told the august House this morning.
The premier, in reply to a supplementary question from backbencher Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datok) in the lower house, said the foreigners were surprised by his assertion because they thought fundamentalists were violent people who commit terrorism.
"For me, if we hold on to the fundamentals of Islam, we cannot go bad because Islam calls upon us to do good, to strengthen brotherhood among ourselves. Therefore, it is not wrong to be fundamentalist Muslims," he said.
He added that he was proud to be regarded as a fundamentalist Muslim.
"I have said this 15 years ago and it was reported in the American newspapers that the Malaysian prime minister is a fundamentalist. I'm not ashamed to be a fundamentalist. I am a fundamentalist," declared Mahathir.
He also said that Malaysia is a country which practise fundamental teachings of Islam and not interpretations of Islam made by political ulama (religious teachers).
Difference not important
Meanwhile, opposition DAP vice-chairperson Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP-Kepong) asked the premier to point out the difference between the controversial Islamic state and a Muslim country.
"The difference is nothing important. What important is the fact that the world recognised Malaysia as an Islamic state," Mahathir said.
"I was invited by Pope [John] Paul II because I'm recognised as a leader of an Islamic state. If DAP cannot accept that, we don't care. The important thing is the world accepted that, including the Pope," he added.
Mahathir, however, explained that non-Muslims will not be oppressed under an Islamic state.
"If we follow the principles of Islamic governance, non-Muslims will have a place [in the country]. What basis does DAP have for feeling oppressed when I announced that Malaysia is an Islamic state?" he asked, adding that the federal constitution has not been altered.
The premier explained that Malaysia is considered as a "model Islamic state" even before he made the declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state last year.
Mahathir stated that Malaysia is already an Islamic state during the Gerakan annual national delegates' conference in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 29 last year.
The PM's announcement had caused uneasiness within some sections of the non-Muslim community.
DAP has been in the forefront of a campaign against the premier's Islamic state announcement, claiming that it is a violation of Malaysia's social contract and the federal constitution.
The government has denied the claim, adding that constitution has not been amended. It stressed that Islam has been accepted as the official religion of the federation but non-Muslims are free to practise their respective religions.
Early this month, DAP leader Lim Kit Siang was arrested for sedition for handing out leaflets criticising Mahathir's Islamic state declaration.
Back in action
Besides the rare appearance of the premier in Parliament today, the meeting today also sees the attendance of various cabinet ministers and members of parliament.
The youngest MP, Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah), who has just completed her six-month suspension from Dewan Rakyat is also back.
DAP secretary-general Kerk Kim Hock, who is also MP for Kota Melaka, also attended the meeting today despite having undergone treatment for cancer.
But absent from the House is Opposition Leader Fadzil Noor, the leader of the opposition PAS party. He is in hospital after his heart by-pass surgery last Monday.
The long-awaited annual report from the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), which was due to be tabled in Parliament during the last seating in April, was also distributed to the MPs today.
However, malaysiakini was told that the report will not be debated in Parliament unless the parliamentarians bring up the matter.
It is learnt that DAP is planning to call for an emergency motion to discuss certain issues arising from the report.