Article 153 — is it un-Islamic?

There are key articles in the Charter that can be, taken into context, contradictory to the Constitution of Malaysia, particularly Article 153 which promises a “special position” to the indigenous Malays (Bumiputeras).

By Aizuddin Danian

Malaysia’s official religion, according to Article 3 of its Constitution, is Islam. That doesn’t make Malaysia a Muslim nation; there is a find line between a theological state and a secular one. We’ve yet to make that cross over.

Having said this, it came to mind whether there are any articles in our beloved Constitution that are un-Islamic, in particular Article 153.
(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special provision of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.
When you think about a Muslim Government in current times, you have to compare it against the Muslim Government of the Prophet Muhammad‘s time, namely his administration of Muslims and non-Muslims while he was alive.
Muslims are told to take the Prophet as an example (his sunnah); while the Holy Quran often speaks in parables, the actions of the Prophet are how Muslims for all time should interpret as manifestations of what the Holy Quran prescribes in practice. For example, the Holy Quran mentions that Muslims must pray, but it doesn’t teach us how to pray. The Prophet’s daily prayers are the sample of how these prayers should be performed. 
What about the Prophet’s political sunnah?
The basis i’m dealing from is the social contract the Prophet signed and ratified with the people of Medina called, the “Medinah Charter“. Some say that the Charter is one of the first of its kind, the first ever written state constitution. 
The document itself, signed in 622, is an excellent socio-political compromise. The Prophet Muhammad had to get away from the religious persecution of Mecca, and the people of Medina, due to conflict between the native communities of Khazraj and Aws, needed a peace-maker. It was a match literally made in heaven — the Prophet brought Islam and peace to the Khazraj and Aws by being the one person both sides could trust, and the Prophet was provided a base from which Islam could grow and flourish in the region.
There are key articles in the Charter that can be, taken into context, contradictory to the Constitution of Malaysia, particularly Article 153 which promises a “special position” to the indigenous Malays (Bumiputeras).
Therefore, the thesis is: Malaysia is a Muslim nation. However, its constitution is not in accordance to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Does that make the Malaysian constitution (parts of it) un-Islamic?
Article 16 of the Medina Charter:
Those Jews who follow the Believers will be helped and will be treated with equality.
Article 17:
No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew.
Article 19:
The peace of the Believers (of the State of Madinah) cannot be divided. (it is either peace or war for all. It cannot be that a part of the population is at war with the outsiders and a part is at peace).
Article 30:
The Jews of Bani Awf will be treated as one community with the Believers. The Jews have their religion. This will also apply to their freedmen. The exception will be those who act unjustly and sinfully. By so doing they wrong themselves and their families.
The example in this document set by the Prophet is molded on several principles:
  1. Loyalty will be rewarded, treachery will be punished.
  2. The minorities of the community (the Jews) are equal in rights to the majority from the point of view of the State.
  3. Those that need help will be given help, regardless of their belief.
Let’s transplant these principles into our locality:
Loyalty will be rewarded — the modern day equivalent is citizenship and nationality. If you profess to be a Malaysian, that means you are loyal to your country. No distinction is made to your ethnicity, race or origin. If you are loyal (i.e. a citizen), then you will rewarded by the State. In 622, “protection” was the reward. In 2010, “equal opportunity” should be the reward — its the only real protection we have against the ills of socio-economic hardship.
The minorities have equal rights to the majority — this is where the Prophet Muhammad was at least 6 centuries ahead of his time; even the venerated Magna Carta does not do protect the rights of all its people equally. If people like Ibrahim Ali and the ultra Malays have their way, then the Prophet Muhammad will be at least 1,500 years ahead of us. 
Those in need will be helped, regardless of their belief — race is the new religion. In 622, the Prophet laid the framework for religious equality: the State will help you if you are in need (and if you are loyal), the State will be “blind” to your religion when dispensing this aid. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and at least where Malaysia is concerned, is seems that there are many in our society who believe that “help” should be dispensed based on your race. If you’re a Bumiputera, then “more” help should be made available to you.