The purpose of this research is to analyze the political determination of Islamist role in Malaysia. It seeks to look further into the different trends and development toward a politicized brand of Islam in Malaysia post independent and present day; therefore, the direction of Islamic community participates in the election and the massive influence within Malaysian political parties. Over the decades Malaysia had become known in the Middle East as the successful model of the Muslim country, so the outcome toward foreign diplomacy with Muslim countries will be treat in the article below. 1. Introduction
The Consequences of Malaysia’s politics had led to a new grip with its own take on democracy although democracy and human rights are still the priority in shaping Southeast Asia’s politics. Yet, running with a recent story, the new constitutional order emerged again under the return of the former Prime Minister, Mahathir who imposed the prosperity of nowadays Malaysia. This country was composed by population of 28 Millions in which approximately 60 percent was Muslim that means Malaysia (“Islamic Tourism Center – Enhancing Ties, Enriching Knowledge”,” n.d). Therefore, Malays are counted as the leading population to earn the privilege among other ethnics in politics, economics, and other leading activities.
1.2 Problem Statement
Over the history, Malaysia’s politics was characterized in the multi-race and multi-religious pattern, the ethnicity has been the dominant theme in Malaysia way towards democracy. But On one level, this country is significant under the visible symbols of Islam. Islam framework is seen as the aspect of Malaysia’s administration that mainstream its influence in both domestic and international affair (Fareha, 2018). Indeed, political system was accused on not a truly democratic even if it took an own way on capturing the Islam and democracy together. Linking with democracy and Islamisation, political of Malaysia is also attempted to promote a privilege of Muslim people.
1.3 Research Question
By this, the thesis will examine on the impact of Islamist in Malaysia politics by answering the questions “What are the impact of Islamic community in Malaysia’s political parties? How did the Islamist influence the relation between Malaysia and Muslim Countries?”
1.4 Thesis Statement
The first part will discuss the scheme of Islamist on determining the political path. This paper will look into the minority right and the initiatives process of Islamic framework and examine the role of Islamist in shaping the political parties. Most political parties in Malaysia were initially related to the Islamisation and the representation of a strong Islamist leader. By this, the article will focus on the conservation of Islamic and its path inside the political parties. The second part will look deeply on Malaysia’s close ties toward the Muslim countries. Especially, the relations within the extremist groups headed for Muslim world. In analyzing the Islamic approach to Malaysia political system, this paper aims to study about the process towards the state political strategies. This will include left-right wing parties, the power of political leaders especially the expression from Malaysian people in direction of Islamic democracy.
Impact of Islamist within Malaysia Political Parties
Islam was brought to Malaysia by Arab trader during the 12th century. Since then, Malaysia have been moving beyond the Islamic factor which include religion, people, political and economic. In addition, many Islamic institutions were setting up as the means of strengthening the Muslim position, like the creation of International Islamic University Malaysia (Altala, 2017).
Base on the Malaysia constitution, Article 3 declared that Islam is believed on the belief of the federation only Islam that can sermonize to Muslims. By this article it shows the influence of Islamic religion which Islam does not mean only on the basis of rituals but it is normally understood as the comprehensive system of life, such as moral standards, political, economic, jurisprudence. More than this, Islam was placed as the important of law, regardless of what state law might say on the matter (“Islam is the Religion of the Federation? (Chapter 7) – Constituting Religion”,” n.d.). It would be retained with consensus on several points that regarding with the position of Islam and the remit for expenditure. Otherwise, the power over Islamic matters such as family law and religious trusts are under the control of state. As a result, Malaysia has described strictly as a secular state that adopted to Islamic purpose (Seng, 2016). For some reasons, Malaysia has improved both general civil code and Islamic Law. As Muslims’ population majority are dramatically growth, Muslim society struck the government to declare Malaysia as an Islamic state. Islamic law hospitalities from Muslim sets that would like to use as a core to lead the country. Since the post independent, the conservation of Islamist groups had massed power and greater influence in organizing the politics through many kinds of ways. The unique Malaysian broad of Sunni Islamic group is also trying to build the world’s only Islamic state where Islam and some particular ethnic group such as Sunni Islam, Malay-Muslim, Orthodox Islam, Indian and Chinese are the same (Osma, 2016). However, many Islamist groups still proclaim Malaysia as an Islamic state base on the Muslim population and the Article 3 in the constitution as mentioned above.
As a result, government was lately faced the terms of those conductive case in the region (Mohamad, 2006). As we should notice about bureaucracy, JAKIM, a department under Prime Minister’s office, is initiated promoting the expansion of religious bureaucracy. It was established in the coordinate on the activities of Islamic non-governmental organization which give a role in spreading the message of Islam (Osma, 2016). Basically, it came into existence because of the power of the favorable Malays-Muslim in the country itself and the leader as support. In the 1970s, Malaysia regulated Islamic oriented organization which acted collectively to adopt Islamic values into policy.
On the other hand, the changing in education system opened the opportunity for those Malay- Muslims to have a chance in studying in the Middle East where they returned back with the ideas of Islamic revival to Malaysia (Mohamad, 1981). Thus, one of the most prominent Islamic civil society organization emerged, under the name of Muslim Solidarity Front (ISMA). It was basically become a coherent Islamic organization in Malaysia. ISMA is a politically non-partisan that consist of the middle class, Malays and students who were coordinated to promote and introduced the Malays right since Islamic people were relied and upkeeping on its policy. As a result, ISMA had been increasing its popularity through majority of Muslim who are those Malays unconditionally.
Even though ISMA was a non-partisan but it also takes a turn in sort of politics and impacting to the politics’ activities, especially during Prime Minister Najab Razak (Osma and Saleen, 2016). Essentially, it impacts to the decision making of the leader in response to ISMA. For example, UMNO embarked on an “Islmaisation of government machinery”, which included the establishment of Islamic banks, insurance and economic foundations, plus the developing a foreign policy oriented to the Muslim world. On the other hand, Malay-Muslim are complexity reside in differentiation regions where politician, non-governmental organization, popular preachers, and the political parties try to engage with, in return to run for the support (Weng, 2018). Beside the struggle to reach the support from differentiation regions, PAS had placed Islamic issues at the forefront of its election campaigns, and recruited leaders with strong Islamic credentials to look after people in every location. Uniquely, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) were deepened to attempt Islam aspect as a weapon of choice to vibrant the citizens. UMNO was guided by a nationalist ideology since Malaysia gained its independent, but it started to incorporate Islam into its political agenda as to compete the opponent PAS. By this, setting a new agenda might prevent PAS from rising more popularity as well as to guarantee its seat as the dominant party (Abbott & Pippas, 2010). In fact during 1983, Islamism reflects the action of political alignment and coordination of opposition parties which was so energetic that harp on the theme of Malay Muslim unity in fact of national and global challenge. Hence, the UMNO, legitimacy was the advocator of Islamic-Malays people in which the result of instruct Islamic values into government operation (Hamid & Razali, 2015). For the first time, UMNO started to counter Islam Hadhari as their own vision for Malaysia. In return, it’s not only won the heart of Muslim but also non-Muslim to trust for BN to govern (Farhae, 2018).
Furthermore, this dominant political party invested the public resource in building up a strong network of Islamic Institution (Mohammad, 2009). Islamist community also featured the advantage of private Islamic school open (Osma, 2016). For example, many young Malay, School system are drenched in a few of Malay Islam that have grown up in a state to introduce in class (Chin, 2015). Facing with a tough competition from PAS and the radical demand from citizens day to day, the UMNO involved itself in a strong Islamization drive where adopted a pro-active approach of Islam as a best representing vision of all in the party.
In addition, the number of Islamic Law and the most extensive Sharia Court was taken place by UMNO program in order to seek for polling voice from Muslim Voters (Mohammad, 2009). In contrast, opposition party (PAS) and UMNO has made its first informal cooperation to maintain its stronghold on government power that they came to rely more and more on political campaign, flourishing on Islam. The PAS appeared to innate with its adversary due to the incapacity and even unwillingness to consult the public about its reverse ideas on Islamic agenda as well as the interpretation of Hudud legislation. Meanwhile, PAS could largely subvert its own pro-Islam initiative and promoting Islamic philosophy that conducting to economic development and inter-ethnic relations more broadly. Plus, the party was able to re-attract its most significant non-Muslim or Muslim partner once again, after the misunderstanding of PAS’s political agenda right before the incorporation with UMNO (Osma & Saleem, 2016). In 2004 election, the Barisan National Coalition achieve its victory of 64 percent of the vote which gained 90 percent of parliamentary seat (Farhae, 2018). Regardless in such a thing happen to the Islam protester who demonstrated against the construction of Hindu temple, the Barisan National Coalition (BAS) still dominated in election (Mohamad, 2009). However, UMNO was rumored of preemptively declaring that Malaysia was readily began its path as an Islamic State which outwitted PAS support (Hamid, 2005). In contrast, since the opposition party (PAS) was imposed by Islamic and Islamist group, this might marked the shift to conservation political realm. Accordingly, Merdeka Center Survey show that Malay voters favor Islamic credentials in their leaders which become an opportunity for PAS politician to high up its rank to the next election (Osma, 2016). As people may know, Malay Islamist had surprisingly countered the re-emergence of the opposition Islamic party (PAS) where Party has striven in turning Malaysia into an Islamic state and stroke division on multi-ethnic, Muslim majority of Malaysia, for nearly half of the century (Hamzah & Leong, 2015).
Even if this country of Southeast Asia accountably with 60% of Muslim, the only strongest opposition that we might see is only PAS. PAS is mostly successful in Eastern part of Malaysia where are known for being Islamist rather than other regions (Suffian, 2017). Additionally, many voters keen to support the Islamic agenda of PAS in a return for a ticket to heaven base on their belief (Weng, 2018). By this, we can see that the connection between Islamist and Malaysia political party is quite strong that tend to complement each other. However, in recent election campaign, PAS advocated their set of policy in order to indicate both the non-Muslims and Muslim to have a marginal role in government but PAS actually never had the power to implement the policies like UMNO did, but it always pursues Islamic and its promise tightly. For example, it holds strict to Islamic Hudud law on Muslim once it becomes the ruling party (Suffian, 2017). The intention and support of Islamist community help promoted the PAS vision towards tuning Malaysia to its favor, Islamic state (“Malaysia’s Islamist party PAS says only Muslims will make policy should it come to power”, 2018).
Malaysia’s close link with Muslim world
Being as a Muslim majority country and that region the Centre of Islam, Malaysia is initially interest with the Middle East which it became an essential role in shaping Malaysian foreign policy. Five years after independence, it is the most likely consulates with only the Muslim state such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and the UAB, also many other Middle Eastern country (Antang, n.d.). Meanwhile, Malaysia has been constantly building a strong relation with Arab countries, moving beyond the Islamic factor and later, extended to political arena. Somehow, Malaysia’s foreign policy towards the middle East countries in this past two decades, seeing Malaysia’s move forward to its Muslim close friend, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In fact, Malaysia was consisted with support of religious activities and institutions by the Islamic sphere from both countries. The closely related with Malaysia’s high dependence on the possibility of Wahhabism and Shi’a ideology among Muslim community. Thus, Committing to its cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Malaysia pledged to help Saudi Arabia during civil unrest in 2011, as the reflection to a strong anti-Shi’a sentiment. In return, Saudi Arabia had made an investment followed as the defenders of the teaching Islam to Islamist communities inside Malaysia (Fernandes, 2017). Above and beyond, Malaysia has improved its linkage in taking part to the conflict inside Arab land, as the name of Islamic brotherhood. Malaysia, which is 60 percent Muslim, strongly in hand with Palestinian people, does not recognize Israel and maintains no diplomatic ties with the state. As a result, it has been championing the Palestine, by standing up against the Israeli occupation of Arab lands and achieving the rights of the Palestinian people. Later, the remarkable solidarity had been more supportive within the two regions, Malaysia and Palestine (Altala, 2017). Overall, Islamic identity became a foundation of Malaysian foreign policy where Malaysia has placed the Middle East as one of its foreign policy priorities.
Indeed, Islamic identity has also given the importance to the solidarity of the Ummah and the spirit of cooperation among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Malaysia becomes a member within the organization of Islamic cooperation (OIC), over its instrumentalization of these majority as a means to close links to the peace committee during Iran-Iraq war. Thus, Malaysia has been an active member where it could look for the following policy of the Islamic countries’ progression. Furthermore, it is not yet ended with the Islamic community influences. Despite OIC, Malaysia has been transformed into a new tie, within Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which it had engaged with major important issues on ideological importance to the wider Arab world as the favor for Islamist’s economic and ethnic relations. In contrast, pointing to political party and outside Muslim countries, the PAS was supported money by Islamic Development Bank which was an advantage to abstract its view under the name of Malaysia country that primary with the relation from outsider Muslim (Delfolre, 2013). Several factions are enhanced the interaction between Malaysia and Muslim world throughout the times, such as the Islamic religious association, economic group and other regional factors. As a result, the cooperation have generated a fruitful outcome to the bilateral interaction since it is an impact of growing Islamic communities.
Additionally, the involving with worldwide Muslims in Malaysia was pressured from the growth of Islamic resurgence in the country and regional Southeast Asia (Antang, n.d). For instance, the alignment of Malays youths in ISIS activities throughout the outside Muslim countries impacted to the government foreign policy. In fact, during the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, especially Palestine, the first to help champion the Palestinians had been Malaysia. Later, the remarkable solidarity had been more supportive within the two regions (Altala, 2017). Still, the impact of Islamist over Malaysia’s foreign policy is not quite possible enough to look furthers.
Approximately of 200, 250 fighters were existed within Sunni Muslim Malays who involved in the Middle East activities such as the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia which had links to the JI, Al Qaeda terrorist organization and AQ networks. As a result, there linked attack on a night club in Kuala Lumpur on June 2016. Some of which were known as the combat extremism against the government program. However, Malaysia was seen as emphasized in counter-terrorist because of political and religious polarize around Islam (Weiss, 2017). This action alone gives a clear large scale of problem that Malaysia have to face as a home-grown Islamic country (Chin, 2015). From 2013-2016, 250 people had arrested through alignment with hardline Islamic state and interpretations of Islam (Tarrant and Siplan, 2015).
However, Islamist extreme was totally a challenge to the foreign relation of Malaysia. The aftermath of September 11, left Malaysia to be affected and responded to the event due to the fact that the attack attributed the blame to Islamic fundamentalism. In particular, Malaysia has been impacted because the name of Islam was invoked (Farouk, n.d.).