Islam and State Collide in Moderate Country

June 2, 2005

Source: The Economist

Wire Service: AP

On June 2, 2005 the Associated Press reported, "[R]eligion remains an awkward subject in Malaysia. Malay Muslims have lived in the area and practised Islam for centuries. During the colonial period, however, large numbers of Chinese and Indians, non-Muslims for the most part, settled in the country. The authors of Malaysia's constitution tried to strike a balance between Malays, who felt that they and their religion should enjoy pre-eminent status in their traditional homeland, and minorities, who were worried that they would become second-class citizens. The result is a document that guarantees individual freedoms, while according Islam a special status. Muslims, for example, can proselytise freely, whereas non-Muslims cannot attempt to convert Muslims. Muslims also have their own, Islamic court system to adjudicate in matters of personal law, while non-Muslims are consigned to the normal, secular courts."