Religious, Ethnic Tensions Threaten to Blow the Lid Off Malaysia's Melting Pot

June 4, 2007

Author: Fabio Scarpello

Source: World Politics Review

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Often praised as a model pluralistic society, Malaysia is showing signs of increased religious tension, and many wonder whether Kuala Lumpur's reluctance to protect non-Muslims' rights could lead to serious problems.

Non-Muslims make up roughly 40 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, and among them follow Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism and Taoism.

Their rights are protected by a civil legal system that runs parallel to the Islamic courts, governed by Sharia. The latter system regulates religious, civil, family, marriage and personal rights for the country's Muslims.

However, the demarcation line between the two systems is somehow blurring, and non-Muslims are getting worried that the country is shifting towards a more radical version of Islam.

The latest case to have made headlines is that of former shopping assistant Lina Joy, 42.