Malaysia is an Islamic state but protects the rights of ethnic minorities, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said Tuesday, amid concerns over a spate of religious conflicts affecting ethnic Indian and Chinese.
Najib dismissed concerns that the country is moving away from its secular status toward greater Islamization, saying predominantly Muslim Malaysia has always been governed according to Islamic principles.
"We have never, never been secular because secular by the Western definition means a separation of Islamic principles in the way we govern the country," he told reporters after opening an international Islamic conference.
"Islam is the official religion, and we are an Islamic state," he said. "We have always been driven by our adherence to the fundamentals of Islam."