Muslim-dominated Malaysia is neither a secular nor a theocratic state, the prime minister said in an apparent bid to make amends after his deputy upset minorities by describing the country as Islamic.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said late on Saturday the country can be best described as a multiracial nation that practices parliamentary democracy with freedom of religion for all.
"We are not a secular state. We are also not a theocratic state like Iran and Pakistan ... but we are a government that is based on parliamentary democracy," Abdullah told reporters after making a speech in the northern state of Penang.
Abdullah's aides could not be immediately reached to confirm the comments.
The prime minister's attempt to take the middle ground comes amid rising concerns among Malaysia's Chinese and Indian minorities that their rights are becoming subordinate to Islam.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak added fuel to fire last month when he said Malaysia is not secular but is an Islamic state that protects the religious rights of minority groups.
Government leaders, opposition parties, lawyers and activists condemned Najib's comment, saying Malaysia was envisioned as a secular state by the country's first leaders after independence from Britain in 1957. But the Malaysian Constitution also says Islam is the official religion.
Minority fears arose from a recent string of religious disputes that ended in favor of ethnic Malay Muslims -- who comprise nearly 60 percent of the 26 million population. The Chinese, who are mostly Buddhist and Christians, account for 25 percent. Indians, who are largely Hindus and Christians, comprise about 10 percent.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year