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ANALYSIS: Progressives Want Secular Future


Police raided Chinese shops in several Malay cities recently for selling paint brushes that were suspected of containing pig bristles.

And as an example of bottom-up pressure, a group of Muslims demanded the removal of the cross from a church in a public square in Selangor.

Where to from here?

There is a mood of pessimism among Malaysia’s Christians. Dr Ng Kam Weng, Christian Director of the Kairos Research Centre, says the Islamic bureaucracy talks about implementing shariah ‘in phases’.

‘Whatever they say, we know that their ultimate goal is hudud. Even without present attempts to enhance shariah courts, they are already infringing our rights. What more when shariah courts are enhanced further and other steps embolden them?

‘The record shows that they have no respect for my constitutional rights even within the present constitutional system. So we have no reason to believe that they would do any better [with enhanced shariah courts] and probably would do worse.’

But there are some positive signs on the horizon. For one, Malaysia’s two eastern states on the island of Borneo, Sarawak and Sabah, have substantial Christian populations and have come out strongly against the proposed introduction of hudud codes.

Another positive sign is the support the religious minorities are receiving in some issues from progressive Muslim groups.

Hermen Shastri adds: ‘The [Muslim NGOs] we find most helpful are those who have made up their mind that Malaysia is secular and there is nothing un-Islamic about that.

‘Malaysia was never meant to be an Islamic state. This has only come to excess because of having one government rule for so long.’


Prof Peter G RiddellProf Peter G Riddell serves as Professorial Research Associate in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London and as Vice Principal (Academic) at the Melbourne School of Theology (an affiliated college of the Australian College of Theology). He previously taught at the Australian National University, the Institut Pertanian Bogor (Indonesia), and the London School of Theology. He has published widely on the study of Southeast Asia, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.

This story was first published at Lapido Media and is reposted here with permission.

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