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

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

Countering religious fundamentalism: Lessons from Malaysia

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Malaysia police arrest 3 suspected Islamic State militants planning attacks on the eve of National Day. (Photo: Malaysian police counter terrorism unit)

Malaysia police arrest 3 suspected Islamic State militants planning attacks on the eve of National Day. (Photo: Malaysian police counter terrorism unit)

SINGAPORE: Individuals tend to be drawn to fundamentalist ideology out of a desire to escape personal, familial, or social problems, rather than out of religious piousness, said Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

This understanding can inform how authorities should counter the influence and spread of religious fundamentalism, noted Mr Zahid, who shared key lessons from Malaysia in a keynote address at the Asia-Europe Counter-Terrorism Dialogue on Tuesday (Nov 1).

“Young girls, as young as 14 years old, from Malaysia were also influenced. She was caught at the airport when she was about to board the plane. She was so attracted by the young, handsome, bearded potential husband,” he said, adding that the girl had been radicalised through materials on the internet.

“Why was she influenced? It’s not because of religious belief… It’s because of escapism, because they would like to get out of the problems that they are facing in their family, in the society, with employers.” Read more