Religious fundamentalism in Malaysia: reality vs rhetoric

Source: Asian Correspondent

Hijabs for sale at a market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Source: Shutterstock. Image taken from Asian Correspondent.

WHEN it comes to tackling religious fundamentalism, the Malaysian government struggles to reconcile the commitments it makes on the international stage with the realities of life for the Malaysian people, according to UN Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune.

Under Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Malaysian government has long touted the merits of a cohesive and inclusive multi-religious society in the Muslim-majority nation, and continues to declare its commitment to a “moderate and progressive” form of Islam.

In comments made in response to Bennoune’s thematic report on fundamentalism, extremism and the cultural rights, Najib placed the success of the nation at the feet of its ethnic and religious diversity.

“In Malaysia’s experience ensuring a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-ethnic population have freedoms to practice their cultures, traditions and religious belief has been essential and integral to our nation building and progress,” he said in March 2017. Read more

Honest journalism and better democracy — Tunku Zain Al-Abidin

Source: The Borneo Post Online

BY TUNKU ZAIN AL-ABIDIN

AT their best, you might assume that in a healthy democracy, the realms of journalism and civil society share the same goal. Both want to expand the space – whether in print, online, conference halls or on the streets – in which citizens can discuss the state of the country and debate the ideologies and policies that they believe will take the country forward.

At their worst, agents of both are compromised by undemocratic interests: even in countries regarded as established democracies, newspapers and so-called non-governmental organisations are seen as lobby groups under the thumb of certain political parties, corporations or trade unions. But at least this is mitigated by transparency in terms of ownership and funding, and more crucially, by competition in the media space. In dictatorships, these aspects are absent.

In Malaysia, the print media remains strongly regulated, but the space secured by the mass penetration of the Internet (and then specifically social media) as well as the more relaxed view towards civil society under Tun Abdullah Badawi (compared to the previous environment) has made permanent some avenues for the expression of alternative views. However, investigating certain topics or ‘insulting’ certain individuals are off-limits and can lead to the closure of your online portal or you being in jail. Read more

UN envoy says govt’s contradiction over religious extremism worrying

Source: FMT News

UN special rapporteur Karima Bennoune questions discrepancy between rhetoric and reality on Islamic fundamentalism and extremism in Malaysia. Image taken from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: The UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune has revealed that while the Malaysian government has voiced its rejection of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, there was concern over perceived contradictions.

In a report on her preliminary observations during a visit to Malaysia from Sept 11 to 21, Karima Bennoune reported on some of these contradictions as told to her by the different sectors of Malaysian society whom she met.

“They expressed concern that the contradiction to these stated commitments was part of the growing Islamisation of Malaysian society and polity based on an increasingly rigid and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam,” Bennoune said.

“It is critical to ask what accounts for this striking discrepancy between rhetoric and lived reality recounted by many and what its consequences are for the enjoyment of cultural rights.” Read more