Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia

Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia

Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia

Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia

Synopsis

Malaysia, home to some twenty million Muslims, is often held up as a model of a pro-Western Islamic nation. The government of Malaysia, in search of Western investment, does its best to perpetuate this view. But this isn't the whole story. Over the last several decades, Joseph Liow shows,Malaysian politics has taken a strong turn toward Islamism. This book offers a comprehensive analysis of the growing role of Islam in the last quarter century of Malaysian politics. Conventional wisdom suggest that the ruling UMNO party has moved toward Islamism to fend off challenges from the moreheavily Islamist opposition party, PAS. Liow argues, however, that UMNO has often taken the lead in moving toward Islamism, and that in fact PAS has often been forced to react. The result, Liow argues, is a game of "piety-trumping" that will be very difficult to reverse, and that has direconsequences not only for the ethnic and religious minorities of Malaysia, but for their democratic system as a whole.

Excerpt

When queried about the possibility of creating an Islamic state in Malaysia immediately after independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister and the country’s Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence), famously quipped that to do so he would have to “drown every non-Muslim in Malaysia.” Some forty-five years later, Malaysia’s fourth prime minister and the architect of Vision 2020, Mahathir Mohamad, openly declared that Malaysia was already an Islamic state. While Mahathir’s comment could be partly attributed to the need to shore up his Islamic credentials as his party engaged in the politics of brinkmanship with an Islamic opposition, it was in fact the culmination of several decades of gradual Islamization of Malaysia that had been engineered, paradoxically enough, by the very party and government that Tunku led many years ago. How did this shift come about, and what does it portend for Malaysia?

Malaysia has a population of approximately 22 million people. Of these, close to 60% are Muslims, who are virtually all ethnic Malay. Since independence, the country has undergone tremendous transformation. Once primarily a rural backwater, several decades of urbanization and industralization have created the tenth largest economy in Asia, one that quickly joined the ranks of the original “Asian tigers.” Modernization of the economy was a key policy objective of the Mahathir administration, the foundation of his “Vision 2020” plan to make Malaysia a developed country by the year 2020. Much of this modernization hinged on policies that encouraged an influx of foreign investments and multinational corporations into Malaysia. This foreign influx was so critical to the government’s development . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.