There’s too much semantics and prejudice on this issue. To me no practical difference exists but because of aversion to using “Islamic” and “secular” term we get into this ineffective debate.
Let me put my stand. Our constitution is not secular in the general meaning of the word. Secularism separates the state and religion. But we not only recognize an official religion in our constitution but even recognize religious courts and administration. In Malaysia thus to Rome is not Caesar. Our constitution recognizes religion and it’s function in our society. Our constitution is thus not secular in the ordinary meaning of the word.
If it is not secular are we then an islamic state? Lets set it straight. Theres no definition of islamic state in quran or hadis. Its a jurisprudential /ijtihadi development. Thus the definition of Islamic states varies. On one hand we have a strict interpretation of Islamic state. Here an Islamic state is governed by Muslims and implement shariah laws in particular hudud. This is the definition adopted by PAS all the while though they seemed ambivalent and confused now.
On the other hand is a view that an Islamic state is a state governed by Muslims. Of course there are other constitutional precepts but essentially these are the differences in Malaysia. This less strict definition is adopted and proclaimed by Mahathir.
If you just analyse a bit, Mahathir is saying that based on our current state of affairs we’re already an Islamic State. And if you analyse a bit further its the same argument that DAP is arguing but call it secular. DAP wants our current constitutional arrangement to stay . So in essence DAP’s stand and BN’s stand is the same. DAP should have no issue with BN’s concept of Islamic state. But since they’re opposite we see now both argue on semantics. DAP secular state is in form and substance similar to mahathirs pronouncement of Islamic state.
So what DAP is oppossed to is PAS conception of Islamic State. Both have different opposite concepts. DAP simply don’t like the Islamic State term and out right oppose any inference to it despite being the same stand with bn. By doing so I think it wants to knock down both BN and PAS conception.
But everybody knows that BN and DAP conception of state is similar. The major difference is between PAS and DAP. Now this issue should be resolved by both. It should not be set aside because of expediency power or worse common hatred. Assuming PR wins we cannot have a government bickering among each other on this fundamental point. This is a total waste of time and resources. Unless PAS becomes more like UMNO putting power above all else, no one can foresee that DAP n PAS can agree to this. In this sense both should be honest. Allow the public a referendum after they win power and both abide by the outcome. Let’s settle it once and for all.