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Islamization and Activism in Malaysia

Julian C H Lee

Publication Year: 2010

Islamization and Activism in Malaysia examines aspects of the increasing political and social profile of Islam in Malaysia and describes how different kinds of activists in Malaysia have sought to protect fundamental liberties and to improve the state of democracy in Malaysia. In particular, focus is paid to activists who engage with electoral process, the law and the public sphere, and in particular, to movements that cut across or combine these realms of action. Spanning the period of the Prime Ministership of Abdullah Badawi, Julian C. H. Lee's grounded analysis examines the most important issues of that period including the freedom of religion case of Lina Joy, the Islamic state debate, and events surrounding the 8 March 2008 general elections.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

There are many people whom I must thank for their various forms of assistance during the creation of this book. I would like to thank Douglas Lewis, Andrew Dawson, Anthony Marcus, Thomas Reuter, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on drafts of this text. I would also like to...


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pp. xi

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pp. 1-10

This book is concerned with civil society’s reactions to some of the negative impacts of political, legal, and social Islamization in Malaysia. I examine how different groups of people in Malaysia have sought to counter threats to the public domain and to their civil liberties as a result of...

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1. On Islam, Democracy, and Activism

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pp. 11-35

Malaysia recapitulates some global trends and issues relating to the management of national, ethnic, and religious sentiments. One current issue, both in Malaysia and on the world stage, is Islam’s putative intolerance of what are for some basic political freedoms. The “cartoon row” that emerged...

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2. A Short History of Malaysia

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pp. 36-50

According to Alberto Gomes, archaeologists tend to agree that Malaysia’s aboriginal populations are descendants of Neolithic and Hoabinhian humans who arrived more than 5,000 and 10,000 years ago respectively (1999, pp. 78–79). Those who are known today as Malays came later from what is...

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3. Malaysia as an Islamic State: The Debate

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pp. 51-61

Of the arguments in the Islamic state debate that I explore in this chapter, first are those that should be regarded as emanating from UMNO and the Islamization mechanisms that it has established. Among these arguments are that existing political structures are in some way already Islamic...

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4. Conflict of Jurisdiction: Civil versus Syariah Law

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pp. 62-73

This chapter explores the legal contest over the interpretation of two articles of Malaysia’s Constitution: Article 3, which declares that “Islam is the religion of the federation”, and Article 11, which outlines the liberty of freedom of religion. The prism through which this contest is examined is...

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5. Islamist Lawyers' Views

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pp. 74-82

I concentrate in this chapter on the views of some Islamist lawyers on the political and legal framework of Malaysia. I present first the views of Mohamed Ariff Yusof and Haji Sulaiman Abdullah. Their views relate more to political and ethnic interrelations and the rightful place of Islam...

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6. Social Activism and the Article 11 Coalition

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pp. 83-97

At the end of the previous chapter, some of the limitations for liberal constitutionalists of wholly legal approaches were recognized. In this chapter I examine an example of social activism in response to the failure of legal challenges to Islamically founded restrictions on freedom of religion. I...

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7. Questioning Orthodoxies, Criticizing Zealotry

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pp. 98-109

Like many Malaysian Muslims, of concern to members of SIS is the apparent conflation of Arab culture with Islam. This is sometimes referred to in Malaysia as the Arabization of Islam. This conflation is often associated with a conservatism that appears to be becoming increasingly...

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8. Electoral Engagements

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pp. 110-131

My description of the Malaysian electoral system will begin with a discussion of the socio-political impacts of the “first-past-the-post” electoral system which is in effect in Malaysia. I am concerned to show how it constrains the diversification of voices and how it encouraged...

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Conclusion: Islam, Democracy, and Activism in Malaysia

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pp. 132-136

Malaysian Islam made headlines around the world in late 2008 when the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia, which composes fatwas that may be adopted and enforced by individual states, announced first that it was haram (forbidden) for Muslim women to behave like tomboys and...


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pp. 137-149


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pp. 151-162

About the Author

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pp. 163

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9789814279031
Print-ISBN-13: 9789814279024

Page Count: 163
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Islamic renewal -- Malaysia.
  • Islam and civil society -- Malaysia.
  • Islam and state -- Malaysia.
  • Islam and politics -- Malaysia.
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