Three things we learned about: the Islamisation of Malaysia

By Justin Ong
The Malay Mail Online
June 20, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — Malaysia professes to be a multi-racial and multi-cultural federation with Islam as its religion, but there is a mounting movement to turn it simply into an Islamic state.

While defenders of the status quo insist that it is a secular state and Islam’s position is largely decorative, it appears they are fighting a losing battle against the tide of growing Islamisation in the country.

Slowly, but surely, Malaysia is headed down the path where religion permeates not just houses of worship, but all aspects of life.

Here are the three things we learned about the growing Islamisation of Malaysia.

1. The minister of Islamic affairs is more powerful than any other

Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom’s official portfolio is minister in charge of Islamic affairs, but it appears that his purview extends far beyond religion.

On Tuesday, he declared that Malaysia was not a secular state, thereby dismantling a key obstacle towards the introduction of more Islamic laws — including the controversial hudud penal code — in the country.

Yesterday, he took it upon himself to reinterpret the parts of the Federal Constitution pertaining to the conversion of children to Islam, effectively reversing a 2009 Cabinet decision that expressly barred parents from unilaterally changing the religion of their children.

In one fell swoop, he has moved the country further down the path towards becoming a full-fledged Islamic state.

But despite the pivotal consequences of his declarations, few save the usual opposition figures have come out to dispute his assertions.

At the rate Jamil Khir is going, both de facto law minister Nancy Shukri and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail may soon find themselves surplus to requirements.

2. Even the elders are concerned

The growing pervasiveness of religion in the administration is palpable to all, even to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who famously proclaimed Malaysia to be an Islamic country in September of 2001.

Now, he has come out to say that Malaysia is neither secular nor Islamic, but simply an “ordinary state” that recognises Islam as its religion.

“We are just an ordinary state that recognises Islam as the official religion of the country, and we practise things that are not against the religion of Islam,” Dr Mahathir told The Star on Wednesday.

In the same report, the country’s longest-serving prime minister said that his previous declaration did not require efforts to make the country “more Islamic”.

His stand now appears more in line with the Reid Commission report that said Islam’s position, as the religion of the federation, did not preclude the country from being a secular state.

For Dr Mahathir to come out and contradict himself on the issue suggests the dangers of allowing Malaysia to continue down this path.

3. Religion is a political tool

The creeping Islamisation of the country may appear on the surface to be about religion, but the worrying truth is that it is being allowed to happen by an administration that sees it as a platform to remain in power.

In a recent index of the “Islamicity” of countries, Malaysia came in 33rd — the highest among Islamic countries, admittedly — but also behind the likes of Singapore and even perennial enemy of the Muslims, Israel.

Why did Muslim countries fare as poorly as they did in professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University, Hossein Askari’s “Overall Islamicity Index”?

“If a country, society or community displays characteristics such as unelected, corrupt, oppressive and unjust rulers, inequality before the law, unequal opportunities for human development, absence of freedom of choice (including that of religion), opulence alongside poverty, force and aggression as the instruments of conflict resolution as opposed to dialogue and reconciliation, and, above all, the prevalence of injustice of any kind, it is prima facie evidence that it is not an Islamic community,” Askari explained.

This is readily observable in Malaysia, where the rhetoric of religion waxes and wanes in tandem with elections.

Unfortunately, since 2008, the country has been trapped seemingly in an eternal campaign ostensibly for control of Putrajaya, though increasingly it appears that what is truly at stake is the nation’s soul.

  1. #1 by digard on Friday, 20 June 2014 - 5:12 pm

    Good article!
    Only towards the end does this article try hard to revert to the way of political correctness. It is not only UMNO, or some other elite, trying to stay in power.
    Unfortunately, I know way too many non-elite Malays who are take the idea with hook, line and sinker. They are sure that their God has promised a state as close as possible to paradise once an entity declares itself Islamic. What I at least foresee is that a full Islamisation of Malaysia will instead bring a state as close as possible to hell.
    Not because of some inherent problem in the idea; though due to some inherent problem in the people involved.
    Look at so-called Islamic states worldwide, in our days. Not exactly shining; just the opposite. Internal strife, if not civil war, hundreds if not thousands of deaths. No, not khafirs, but pious Muslims.

    Worst of all: the Malaysian Malays will be hit hardest, because their potential to escape / migrate is the lowest of all ethnicities of Malaysia. The poor, downtrodden, rural Malays with the highest inclination to Islamisation will suffer hardest.
    Of course, in the end it will be easy to call their suffering ‘self-inflicted’. But at least I would not be happily rubbing my hands then and tell them “See. Told you so!”

  2. #2 by Sapere Aude on Friday, 20 June 2014 - 10:57 pm

    “We are just an ordinary state that recognises Islam as the official religion of the country, and we practise things that are not against the religion of Islam,” Dr Mahathir told The Star on Wednesday.
    Yes, Mahathir unilaterally declared pleno jure on Sept 29, 2001 that Malaysia is an Islamic country. A deed that will continue to create odium theologicum animosities, and one that will live forever in the annals of infamy.

    To now say otherwise is his way of shifting the blame, intended to provide him with a salve for his guilt and to exculpate himself. ‘Twas ever thus!

    Mahathir has stultified himself beyond recall, for the reason that he repudiate all his former protestations in favour of making Malaysia a non-secular nation.

    Let ill will be absent, but Mahathir should know by now that the incontinence of expressing his theological views that are not “kosher” over the transom will only help him feel high for about as long as peeing his pants will help when he has to go. It will only give a warm feeling for two seconds considering his age.

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