Since gaining a foothold in South-East Asia around the 13th century, Islam has been a major influence on political life in the region. What lies ahead?
A wide variety of interpretations and schools of thought have characterised Islamic scholarship in the Malay world, as can be seen from its willingness to accommodate the intricacies of local customs known as “adat”. Upon gaining independence on August 31, 1957, the newly inaugurated Federal Constitution installed Islam as the state religion via Article 3(1). However, the precise implications of such a provision were never made clear. Documentary evidence can be put forward to argue that the drafters of the Constitution had never intended the clause to mean Islam undertaking a comprehensive role in the running of affairs of the nation, but its vagueness also meant that political leaders were given a free rein over the employment – or neglect – of Islam as a political tool.
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