Religious Assertion in Malaysia: Constrained or Conflagrated?

Panjaj Kumar Jha was Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • November 2009

    For several decades, religion has been a visible and potent force in the domestic politics of Muslim countries. Within Asia, the issue has attracted considerable debate and a good case study of this is Malaysia. Issues of religious conversion, demolition of temples, apostasy, and Islamic state discourse have widened fault lines among different religious communities in Malaysia. While on the one hand the role of the state is seen as being a constraining factor to these divisive tendencies, on the other hand politico-social compulsions have coerced it into acceding to the majoritarian demands. The opposition Islamic political parties and the contradicting interpretations of the constitution and religious texts have aggravated the problem. The global financial crisis has further accentuated the fissures and minority protagonists of majority religious groups have become more assertive.

    The level of religious sensitivity is not the same as it was before. If it was, we would have no problem. But some people consider certain matters as too sensitive. (Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi)

    Fifty years after independence, race and religion remain divisive issues in Malaysia, with the nation at times coming 'close to the brink of disaster'. (Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi)