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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Islamism in Malaysia?

"Despite the talk of ‘Islam Hadari’ and the attempts to promote the agenda of ‘progressive, moderate Islam’ here in Malaysia, it should be painfully obvious to all by now that there remain very real repressive undercurrents in Malaysian society. This is particularly true for the Malay-Muslims of Malaysia, who are forced to live under the constant threat of a myriad of increasingly repressive, intrusive and constricting laws governing their practice, understanding and expression of normative Islam.


Here in Malaysia the first signs of the rise of authoritarianism could be found in the dominant political culture of the state itself. By the 1970s, the authoritarian political culture of Malaysia gave birth to local oppositional groups that were likewise mirror-reflections of the authoritarian culture they opposed: On the campuses of Malaysia there emerged right-wing Malay-Muslim student groups who claimed to be ‘Islamist activists’, but who were really more concerned about isolating the Malay-Muslims from the rest of the student body and to police their fellow Muslims instead. It was during this period that hot-headed thugs began their campaign to ‘police’ student campus life, to the point of breaking into campus dormitories and checking on their fellow Malay-Muslim students, in order to make sure that they were ‘behaving properly’.

Today, the logic of popular authoritarianism has come full circle, with the state playing a role it has no business playing: namely, policing the values, beliefs and private lives of ordinary Malaysians. Across the spectrum we have seen groups from PUM to TERAS to PAS to UMNO trying to police the behavior, thoughts and lifestyles of Malay-Muslims, ostensibly in the name of ‘defending Islam’. Academics, writers, activists and now ordinary kids going out for a good time have become their victims. There have been attempts to criminalize differences of opinion in Islam, attempts to demonize Muslim women’s groups (like the NGO Sisters in Islam), demonize Muslim gays/lesbians, etc.

Read the whole thing.

Update (8:15 AM, Feb. 4th, 2005): Part two is now up.

|| RPH || 9:22 PM || |