November 30, 2006
Traditionally, Southeast Asian Muslims have been known for their tolerance and their incorporation of traditional beliefs into an Islamic framework. Indonesia and Malaysia are thought to be models of multicultural democracy. And yet, say mainstream Islamic scholars, political analysts and even former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, Southeast Asia’s two most important countries are both drifting toward fundamentalism—a trend made scarier by the inability or unwillingness of some senior political leaders to condemn those promoting the shift. Some analysts are already calling this the “Arabization” of the region.
There are different factors at play. In Malaysia, the lower-income Muslim Malay majority resents the economic clout of minority Chinese business groups. Economic insecurity, hence, has resulted in a mix of Muslim nationalism and Malay nationalism, exacerbated by the possibility that non-Malays (almost 45 percent of the country’s 26 million people) could someday become the ethnic majority in the country. Malaysia already has Sharia for Muslims, which has equal status to the civil and criminal laws that apply to ethnic and religious minorities. Still, the conservative Islamic opposition wants harsh hudud laws to be enacted.
“exacerbated by the possibility that non-Malays (almost 45 percent of the country’s 26 million people) could someday become the ethnic majority in the country” -> Comparing the birth rates of non-Malays and Malays, I find this statement errorneous. Anyway, it’s kinda true that Malaysia is going into a period of “Arabization” - a quick look at Putrajaya’s Arab-influenced architecture will tell you that.
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