Malaysia's Secular Status Comes into Question

September 25, 2006

Source: Taipei Times

On September 25, 2006 the Taipei Times reported, "Malaysian society is now gripped by a fundamental question: is the country, which is more than half Muslim, an Islamic state? In practice, various religious and ethnic groups give Malaysia a distinctly multi-cultural character. But the Malaysian Constitution provides room for arguments on both sides of the question, and the relatively secular status quo is facing a serious challenge... For years, there was little need to resolve this constitutional issue. For example, if a Muslim decided to renounce his faith, the matter would be handled outside the legal system, or conversion records would be sealed. Today, however, every Malaysian must declare a religious affiliation, which is registered with the government -- a requirement that has made it difficult for a Muslim to leave Islam without formalizing the change of status through the legal process."