KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — Umno will amend its party constitution to define Islam as the Sunni denomination, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced today, as he ramped up ongoing efforts by his government to crack down on other Islamic sects deemed as deviants by the country.
Najib, who is party president and also the nation’s prime minister, said in his closing speech at the Umno general assembly here that the main takeaway from his party’s 67th annual meet is its defence of the sanctity of Islam.
“We will amend Article 3 (3) of the party constitution so that Islam is not the official religion, but the religion of the federation, and we’ll clearly state that Islam is Sunna wal Jamaah,” said Najib in his closing speech at the Umno general assembly here today.
He also said that foreign Muslim leaders like Fatah’s Dr Abdullah M. Abdullah and Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal had praised Umno and Malaysia as an inspiration and a model to the Muslim world.
“Both of them said they want Umno to lead reconciliation talks so that Fatah and Hamas can make peace,” said Najib.
Fatah and Hamas are the two main Palestinian political movements that are in conflict, with the former ruling the West Bank and the latter controlling Gaza.
Najib’s announcement on defining Islam as the Sunni denomination in Umno’s party constitution came shortly after his vice-president and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, told religious authorities to clamp down on PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu over his alleged links to the banned Shia movement.
Ahmad Zahid also proposed yesterday to reword the definition of “Islam” in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution to insert the words “Sunna wal Jamaah”, in a bid to curb the spread of Shia ideology.
Article 3 presently plainly states that Islam is the religion of the Federation.
Several legal experts, however, dismissed such a move as unconstitutional as it would violate the basic structure of the highest law of the land.
Shia, also spelled “Syiah” locally, is the second largest denomination in Islam after Sunni. The latter is widely practised in Malaysia and is the only branch of Islam recognised by Putrajaya, as other schools, including Shia, are considered deviant.
There are no official statistics on Shiites in Malaysia, but US daily the New York Times quoted Shiite leaders in 2011 as saying that there are an estimated 40,000 Shiite followers in the country, many of whom practise their faith underground.
Najib also said today that there was nothing wrong with affirmative action for the majority-Malay community as they are disenfranchised.
“For social justice and long-term stability, the position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras must be improved,” he said.
“Don’t be apologetic. This is our right. But we don’t deny the rights of other races...the government under Umno is fair to all races. Don’t call us racist. We are not racist. Umno has never been racist,” added Najib.
He also said that the Bumiputera economic empowerment agenda would be made a key performance indicator for government-linked corporations.