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2008 Malaysian Elections: The End of Malaysia's Ethnic Nationalism?
Unformatted Document Text:  state. Another is Malaysia's Constitution being the Supreme law of the land without reference to Islamic law (Ahmad 1978:65). The ethnic nationalism paradigm is further supported by Tunku Abdul Rahman's, Malaysia's first Prime Minister, assertion that Islam was to have a limited role in Malaysian politics: I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it isgenerally understood; we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religionof the State (in Hussin 1990:35). On another occasion, he strongly denied the likelihood of Malaysia as a theocratic state noting: Our country has many races and unless we are prepared to drown everynon-Malay, we can never think of an Islamic Administration (cited in von derMehden 1963:611). While Islam is the state religion, the Malaysian constitution also upholds the right of any citizens -- Malay and non-Malay -- to practice their religion. However, it also has the proviso -- Article 11(4) -- that prohibits the proselytizing of Muslims, i.e., Malays. 9 Although non-Muslims are at a disadvantage, the underlying intent of the legal system is defensive. It is designed to protect the "unique" status of the Malays, rather than to impose the Islamic shariah (Divine Law) on Malaysian public sphere. Ethnic Nationalism and the State-Building Project Ethnic nationalism was inscribed onto Malaysia's public sphere through a number of means. Probably the most significant was its electoral system which consisted of a formal democracy and two non-formal arrangements, the Alliance and the Bargain. The Alliance was a multi-ethnic coalition of three political parties: the United Malay National Organization 8 R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008 9 Article 11:4: Any person, whether or not he professes the Muslim religion, who propagates any religious doctrine or belief, other than the religious doctrine or belief of the Muslim religion among persons professing the Muslimreligion shall be guilty of an offence cognizable by a civil court and punishable with imprisonment for a term notexceeding one year or fine exceeding $3000 sections 15(2) (see Awang 1998:158).

Authors: Arakaki, Robert.
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state. Another is Malaysia's Constitution being the Supreme law of the land without reference to
Islamic law (Ahmad 1978:65).
The ethnic nationalism paradigm is further supported by Tunku Abdul Rahman's,
Malaysia's first Prime Minister, assertion that Islam was to have a limited role in Malaysian
politics:
I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is
generally understood; we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religion
of the State (in Hussin 1990:35).
On another occasion, he strongly denied the likelihood of Malaysia as a theocratic state noting:
Our country has many races and unless we are prepared to drown every
non-Malay, we can never think of an Islamic Administration (cited in von der
Mehden 1963:611).
While Islam is the state religion, the Malaysian constitution also upholds the right of any
citizens -- Malay and non-Malay -- to practice their religion. However, it also has the proviso --
Article 11(4) -- that prohibits the proselytizing of Muslims, i.e., Malays.
9
Although
non-Muslims are at a disadvantage, the underlying intent of the legal system is defensive. It is
designed to protect the "unique" status of the Malays, rather than to impose the Islamic shariah
(Divine Law) on Malaysian public sphere.
Ethnic Nationalism and the State-Building Project
Ethnic nationalism was inscribed onto Malaysia's public sphere through a number of
means. Probably the most significant was its electoral system which consisted of a formal
democracy and two non-formal arrangements, the Alliance and the Bargain. The Alliance was a
multi-ethnic coalition of three political parties: the United Malay National Organization
8
R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008
9
Article 11:4: Any person, whether or not he professes the Muslim religion, who propagates any religious doctrine
or belief, other than the religious doctrine or belief of the Muslim religion among persons professing the Muslim
religion shall be guilty of an offence cognizable by a civil court and punishable with imprisonment for a term not
exceeding one year or fine exceeding $3000 sections 15(2) (see Awang 1998:158).


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