It is not the business of the state to impose religion, said a professor from Australian National University.
“You must shatter the monopoly of the religious class,” James Piscatori said yesterday during a seminar on religion and politics held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Piscatori, the university’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies deputy director, argued that Malaysia can function as a secular state to accommodate the multiculturalism of the nation if syariah laws were to be made separate from state laws.
The seminar was centred on how the separation of “church and state” has been applied around the world throughout history, and how religion can effectively be embraced without impeding on laws.
“The big problem for Islam is who speaks for Islam. But it is a problem with all religious traditions, you shouldn’t overstate that it’s an Islamic problem. I think there’s a fragmentation of authority everywhere, like Jakim (Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia), religious police are everywhere.
“All of these groups are telling you what (Islam) is, but they’re not the only spokespeople for your religion any more. You now have well-educated people to speak for your religion and have ideas,” said Piscatori.
In his lecture, he mentioned that Islamic nations can accommodate religious laws without being a religious state, and how religion can be a means of peacemaking, as opposed to religious conflict.
Piscatori also talked on how the current consensus of Islam is tainted by groups claiming to adopt Islamic beliefs, such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, which have been subjects of geopolitical movements as well.- Mkini