Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country in Southeast Asia, is rapidly turning to Islamic fundamentalism through the state's sharia-like legal system and the country's growing number of Islamic militant sympathizers. Malaysia's government is a federal parliamentary democracy under an elected constitutional monarchy. The country of more than 30 million people is made up of 13 states and three federal territories. It is a multi-ethnic country: Malay Sunni Muslims make up 50.1% of the population, Chinese people make up 23.6%, indigenous people 11.8% and Indians 6.7 %. However, the Malaysian Constitution declares Islam alone to be the official religion.
Malaysia is dominated by an iteration of Islamic culture that is highly influenced by the Saudi Arabian version of Islam. The use of political Islam has been a deliberate move by some Islamists in even the highest levels of Malaysian government to create a sharia-based nation. According to the Wall Street Journal, conservative Wahhabi doctrines spread by Saudi-financed imams are redefining the way Islam is practiced in Malaysia, and politicians are now competing with each other to show off their Islamist credentials. These practices are eroding the tolerance for which the country was previously known.
Recently, one of the influential opposition parties, the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), introduced a bill that will be debated by Parliament in October. The bill would implement harsher hudud laws (brutal physical punishments for transgressions like adultery and theft) in the north-eastern state of Kelantan. In 2015, The Kelantan Assembly passed amendments to the Sharia Criminal Code, approving hudud in the state. As a result, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a center-left, multi-racial political party, cut its ties with the PAS.
A Malaysian state mufti (religious representative), Dr. Abdul Rahman Osman, responded harshly to the DAP's action, calling DAP members kafir harbi -- non-believers deserving of the death penalty for their actions against Islam.
The provisions of the PAS' most recent bill that raised concerns for the DAP and its leaders are as follows:
- Sections 8 and 9, which state that a woman who reports that she was raped will be charged with qazaf (slanderous accusations), and flogged 80 times if she fails to prove the crime;
- Section 22, which calls for the death and confiscation of all properties of a person guilty of apostasy;
- Section 43, which denies women and non-Muslims the right to be witnesses;
- Section 48(2), which provides that an unmarried woman who is pregnant will be assumed to have committed zina (adultery) unless she proves otherwise.
While sharia law infiltrates Malaysian society, anti-Semitism among Malaysian politicians has also been on the rise. In an interview with Al-Jazeera on June 25, Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, was asked about some controversial statements he had made. In 2003, he remarked that Jews ruled the world, and in 2012 he claimed that he would be glad to be labelled as anti-Semitic. In the interview, Mr. Mohamad said, "I believe I'm speaking the truth."
After Germany's soccer victory against Brazil in 2014, Bung Mokhtar Radin, a Member of Malaysian Parliament, tweeted, "Well Done...Bravo... Long Live Hitler." Deputy Minister for Transport Aziz Bin Kaprawi accused the DAP of being funded by Jews. When $700 million was transferred into Prime Minister Najib Razak's bank account by the Saudi royal family just before an election, Kaprawi explained:
"If we had lost [the 2013 election], DAP would be in power. DAP with its Jewish funding would control this country. Based on that, our Muslim friends in the Middle East could see the Jewish threat through DAP."
Young Malaysians are being radicalized as a result of the Islamism and anti-Semitism that their leaders espouse. According to Malaysian police, there are at least 50,000 Islamic State sympathizers in the country, and dozens of them have already been prosecuted. If politicians continue to bring radical Islam, sharia law, and anti-Semitism to Malaysia, this trend will only continue.