View Full Version : Malaysia's unsettling turn toward Islam

25 Sep 06,, 19:49
Some facts about Malaysia since a lot of disinformation was Xplorer's agenda.

Malaysia's unsettling turn toward Islam

By Maznah Mohamad
Commentary by
Monday, September 25, 2006

Malaysian society is now gripped by a fundamental question: Is the country, which is more than half Muslim, an Islamic state? In practice, various religious and ethnic groups give Malaysia a distinctly multi-cultural character. But the Malaysian Constitution provides room for arguments on both sides of the question, and the relatively secular status quo is facing a serious challenge.

Drafted by a group of experts in 1957, under the auspices of the country's former British rulers, the constitution includes two seemingly contradictory clauses. On the one hand, Article 3 states that Islam is the religion of the federation, and that only Islam can be preached to Muslims. On the other hand, Article 11 guarantees freedom of religion for all. As a result, Malaysia has developed both a general civil code, which is applied universally, and Islamic law, which is applied only to Muslims in personal and family matters.

Recently, however, some Muslim groups have pressed the government to proclaim Malaysia an Islamic state, on the basis of Article 3 and the fact that a majority of the population is Muslim. Ultimately, they would like Malaysia to be governed by Islamic law.

For years, there was little need to resolve this constitutional issue. For example, if a Muslim decided to renounce his faith, the matter would be handled outside the legal system, or conversion records would be sealed. Today, however, every Malaysian must declare a religious affiliation, which is registered with the government - a requirement that has made it difficult for a Muslim to leave Islam without formalizing the change of status through the legal process.

The country is now riveted on the fate of ordinary citizens like sales assistant Lina Joy and former religious teacher Kamariah Ali, who are trying to change their religious affiliation through the legal system. Muslim professional organizations and the Islamic opposition political party hold the view that renunciation of Islam is punishable by death. Likewise, the defense by Malaysian civil reform movements of individuals' freedom of conscience has been denounced by some religious leaders as an attack on Islam.

Currently, Malaysia has no law that would impose the death penalty on apostates. Yet public movements have been formed to highlight this Islamic tenet. If it is not applied, the argument goes, there will be a massive exodus of Muslims to other faiths. The immediate goal is to keep the courts from allowing Lina Joy or Kamariah Ali to convert.

Attempts by other democratic civil society groups to debate this issue in peaceful public forums have been thwarted by threats of violence from a coalition of Muslim non-governmental organizations calling themselves BADAI (the Malay acronym for Coalition against the Inter-Faith Commission). Concerned about sparking an ethnic clash, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has proclaimed a ban on open discussion of these issues, threatening to arrest Internet news providers and activists if they continue to fan such debates.

Badawi is right to be worried. Since independence, national politics in Malaysia has reinforced group identity, especially among ethnic Malays, an exclusively Muslim community. Identity politics allowed ethnic Malays to assert their claims of control over land, language and religion. All attempts to reduce Malay influence serve to mobilize this community - in both ethnic and religious terms. Malay politicians have learned how to play this card very effectively.

Ethnic Malays' special status has long been codified in affirmative action policies giving them special economic benefits. However, as Malaysia engages with the global economy, these privileges may eventually be removed in order to heighten the country's competitiveness. As a result, many Malay-Muslims increasingly worry about the loss of familiar economic and political safeguards. In particular, tensions have grown between the Malay majority and the country's large Chinese minority, which has been quicker to benefit from Malaysia's economic opening to the world.

Moreover, efforts to Islamize the state comes at a time when conflict in the Middle East has further politicized Muslim movements in Malaysia. They view themselves as counter-forces to cultural domination by the West, asserting their religious identity in the face of what they regard as imperializing ideas like secularism and human rights.

Small disputes are magnified by this underlying conflict. Disagreements are increasingly depicted as being rooted in an East-West divide, as a struggle between believers and apostates.

Many Muslims are wary of this brand of identity politics. They recognize that the intolerance of Islamist groups can easily be turned against moderate Muslims. But all Malaysians must learn how to manage pressures that seem to be pushing their country's constituent communities away from one another. Defending a multicultural national identity in the face of religious intolerance is thus the great challenge facing Malaysia's state and society.

Maznah Mohamad is deputy dean of graduate studies at the School of Social Sciences at Sains University, Malaysia. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org).


So much for Malaysia being a tolerant Islamic country.

When I visited Malaysia, the tolerance that Malaysia was known to possess was already straining at the ends.

It appears that whatever there was, is now gone.

However, the Chinese have a stranglehold over the Malaysian economy and China will not be very pleased if these Chinese are hassled since these very Chinese are investing in China too, apart from ethnic ties!

11 Oct 06,, 19:10

Don't greet Hindus on Diwali: Malaysian Muslims told

The head of Malaysia's Shariat Department has asked Muslims in the country not to greet Hindus on Diwali.

The government distanced itself from the directive, saying it is a narrow interpretation of Islam.

Fauzi Mustaffar, head of Shariah department, in an email directive to office staff has said that Diwali is a religious festival in which Hindu deities were worshipped and greeting Hindus on the occasion was like practicing polytheism to Muslims.

'So Muslims who have inadvertently wished Hindus a Happy Diwali, Happy Durga Pooja or Happy Lakshmi Pooja must immediately repent and not repeat it in the future,' Fauzi said in his e-mail, according to The Star daily.

The government distanced itself from the controversial directive. Abdullah Zin, a minister in Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's Department, said the email sent by Mustaffar was his personal view.

'He has no authority to say Muslims shouldn't wish Hindus because that is like a fatwa (edict). And fatwas can only come from the National Fatwa Council and Jakim,' Zin was quoted as saying.

'Just because you wish someone Happy Diwali does not mean that you have embraced his beliefs and religion. It is not syirik (practising polytheism). In a multi-religious and multi-racial country like ours, it is important to live in harmony and be nice to one another,' the minister said.

Fauzi, when contacted, said the email was in response to employees' enquiries and meant only for internal circulation. Malaysia is a Muslim majority country but has a minority population of Hindus and Chinese who are freely allowed to practice and Diwali is a national holiday.

11 Oct 06,, 20:04
Good thing, actually.

Must show how peace loving and nice one is!

Shab e Barat is a monotheist thing!

12 Oct 06,, 08:05

Lot's of non-Malays, particularly the Malaysian Chinese from the younger generation are moving overseas to the West or even just the "little red dot" down south of the peninsular to avoid this sort of **** nowadays.

As your article posits, globalization (hence the economy) is playing a large part. The Malaysian govt.'s New Economic Policy (NEP) which is still being carried out through myriad spin-offs today was originally concieved as a means of putting the majority Malays on an equal economic level as the ethnic Chinese as well as raise the educational level.

Thing is, most Malay undergrads who got in to the local uni's through the education quotas studied courses such as History or Islamic History, Islamic Studies or Malay Studies or Malay Language, which is why most (barring the exceptions) Malay graduates are so uncompetitive now, and more in need of government subsidies than ever, just so to be employed in some form.

We also have *overzealous* government officials seeking to enforce Islam even on non-Muslims, whereby even a non-Muslim couple holding hands in a public area was fined by city officers.

The above article about the ban on Deepavali greetings is just one of the latest in a long line of similar antics by such zealots.

12 Oct 06,, 19:48
moderate Islamic country is an oxymoron by itself. Enlightened moderation is much worse :rolleyes:

19 Oct 06,, 12:40
moderate Islamic country is an oxymoron by itself. Enlightened moderation is much worse :rolleyes:

Well, nice people from other parts of the world really WANT to believe that there is such a thing, but they always screw things up themselves.

19 Oct 06,, 13:21
This is just sick.