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Malaysia's Islamization Programme Gone Full Circle: Comparisons with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia

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The entry of religion into politics is not a new phenomenon, and it has become commonplace in many Muslim-majority countries. Islamisation can take place from below as well as from above; in the latter case, states and political elites deliberately choose to inject the discourse of religion into politics and governance as a strategy of regime legitimization. However, two dynamics are at work: discursive and structural. The Islamisation of states and societies require both the discursive shift towards a politics of religion as well as the creation of social structures that can sustain it. Has political Islam become a reality in Malaysia on both the discursive and structural level? This paper discusses this question through a comparative study of Malaysia with other places where Islam has become part of the political landscape; in particular, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Farish Noor is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. He is the author of the most definitive work to date on the history of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, or PAS ) and has conducted research into modern Islamist networks in Indonesia and Pakistan. He is also one of Malaysia’s most prominent public historians, and has delivered public lectures on the symbology of Malay material culture, classical Malay heroes, and the erasure of the radical left from history.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Southeast Asia Forum series.

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