AbstractsPolitical Science

Re-appraising secular-Islamic politics in Malaysia: locating the case for common citizenship

by Regina Lim

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: School of Government and Society
Year: 2014
Keywords: BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc; DS Asia; JQ Political institutions Asia
Record ID: 1406712
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5154/


This dissertation analyses the process of de-secularization of the Malaysian state. It identifies the political role of Islam as an important element in explaining how the Malaysian state sustains the language of special ethnic ‘rights’ to negate the ideal of common citizenship in Malaysia. The historical dominance and constant politicization of Islam reinvents the notion of special citizenship ‘rights’ for the majority Malay citizens, which has serious impacts upon equal opportunities and fundamental liberties of minority citizens. This process is further buttressed by legal apparatus that separates Syariah jurisdiction from civil courts, leading to unequal public access to justice and public deliberation in favour of reasons grounded in religious doctrine. Drawing on Rawlsian-informed critique of power, the thesis advances previous work on Malaysian democracy to critically assess the role of religion in politics that defends state-sanctioned differential citizenship rights. The condition of pluralism in Malaysia is an important case study for a robust understanding of the value of secularism as a principle of state practices. In doing so the thesis makes the normative claim that religion should not reside within the state where it can be politicized with the cost of justifying differential citizenship in a multi-cultural democratic society.