Malaysia as an Islamic State: A Political Analysis

Abdul Rashid Moten


Abstract


Is Malaysia an Islamic State? The legitimacy for this question is derived from the fact that Islam serves as a core element of Malay identity and culture and that traditionally in the Malays states, almost all aspects of government were rooted in Islamic sources and principles and were cloaked with an aura of religious sanctity. Islam was a source of legitimacy for sultans, who assumed the role of head of religion, defenders of faith, and the guardians of Islamic and customary law, education, and values. With colonization, the Shari' ah became subservient to British legal codes and enactments and the sultans were subjected to the control of British Residents and Advisers. The integral relationship of Islam to politics, law, and society was suppressed by the colonial government, which also restricted the juristic, political and philosophical discourse pertaining to an Islamic political order. With the departure of the British and the coming of independence in 1957, the question of the Islamic identity of Malaya and later the Malaysian state resurfaced. There emerged a good deal of discussion on the desirability of an Islamic political order which eventually culminated, especially among an increasing segment of the Malay-Muslim community, with the call for the establishment of an Islamic state in Malaya/Malaysia.


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