..Prime Minister Najib Razak has put much emphasis on his ‘1Malaysia’ slogan in an attempt to showcase Malaysia’s brand of political Islam as being moderate, inclusive, and capable of sustaining harmony among the country’s complex multi-ethnic and multi-religious landscape. However, the inherent contradictions of the leadership’s official message of moderation and co-existence have become increasingly more apparent as many Islamic jurists, who have adopted exclusivist positions on sensitive inter-faith issues, have been handed sizeable authority by the ruling establishment to influence policy.
.. the religious authorities’ widening reach over the affairs of non-Muslims has more to do with the ruling coalition’s increasing unpopularity in the polls, and the government’s inability to mediate communal squabbles, which stems from a lack of leadership at the top of the political structure.
Lim Guan Eng, a key opposition figure, has accused the government of deliberately heightening tension between people of different faiths to distract the masses from the economic bite being caused by price hikes, as the ruling coalition significantly reduces long-held subsides on sugar, petrol and electricity…
..In a country with a complicated ethnic and religious landscape like Malaysia, the state should actively facilitate inter-faith dialogue initiatives, but various religious authorities oppose such programs on the basis that Islam is the constitutionally protected state-religion, and should not be associated on a level playing field with other faiths.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has called on Malaysia to reverse its decision on ‘Allah’, while minority communities and opposition parties demand guarantees that illegal and unconstitutional raids will no longer be permitted.
Rather than taking measures to strengthen national unity and reconciliation, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyidin Yassin recently condoned protests by Muslim groups to demonstrate outside churches that defy the ‘Allah’ ban on Sundays. If Malaysia’s ruling party continues to preach moderation to international audiences and foreign investors while pursuing exclusivist positions at home, the inconsistencies of their message will eventually catch up with them in the polls and on the streets.