Editorial: "Malaysia's Racial Politics"

August 29, 2006

Source: International Herald Tribune


On August 29, 2006 the International Herald Tribune ran an editorial by Philip Bowring. "Malaysia's identification of the Malay race with the Muslim religion is exacerbating strains within Malaysian society - between Malays and non- Malays and within the Malay community - as both Malay and Muslim identities compete for the majority's political attention... Currently attention in Malaysia is focused on a high-profile case, now before the Appeals Court, as to whether a person has the right to cease to be a Muslim and (in this case) become a Christian and hence no longer subject to the Shariah courts. At the most obvious level it is a clash between a secular Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion and the notion of apostasy - that a Muslim must remain Muslim - in a country where Islam has a privileged position. But it could equally well be seen as an issue of the contest for the votes of the many Malays who have come to believe that race and religion are synonymous."