People engaged in political activity cannot teach Islam
Selangor State wants to separate religion from politics. In recent years, Malaysia has seen a push towards polarisation and radicalisation, partly by governments focusing on policies that stress the Malay, thus Islamic identity.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Selangor’s Chief Minister Seri Amiruddin Shari informed the State Legislative Assembly today that from now on anyone involved in political activity will not be granted a licence to teach Islam. Those who currently have a valid permit can continue but only for two years after the document was issued.
This follows a 2019 decision by the Royal Council of Selangor[*] to separate the political sphere from the religious sphere to avoid political control of religion, as requested by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS[†]), the largest Islamic party in the recently dissolved coalition government.
This would also prevent political activity that falls short of the ethical and moral norms of Islam, the religion of 61 per cent of the Malaysian population.
The chief minister’s decision further illustrates the ongoing debate on the relationship between Islam and the state, between personal religious identity and public life, which has affected the country’s political life since the Federation was founded in 1963.
Malaysia often finds itself caught between the demands of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and the tensions that coexistence sometimes cause, a situation complicated by external factors or by an instrumental use of diversity.
So far, extremism has been contained. Only one state, Kelantan, has imposed Islamic law (Sharia) on Muslims (with consequences for non-Muslims, starting with family law), but pressures have increased in order that Islamic law prevail over civil law.
The push for radicalisation has often come from abroad, but more recently they have also been caused by governments, which have openly supported the Malay or Islamic identity to pursue their policies and legitimise their power in times of crisis.
[*] Malaysia is federation of 13 states and three territories. Nine states are monarchies. The office of head of state (king) rotates de facto every five years among the nine monarchs.
[†] Parti Islam Se-Malaysia.