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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Malaysian Islam And The Secular State



Many believe that the establishment of an Islamic state and the implementation of Islamic law are the goal of Islamic politics.

There is no term for Islamic state in Islamic classical sources, even in the most authoritative books (kitâbs ) on Islamic political science (Siyâsah Shar’îyah).

Quran supports the view that the Prophet had nothing to do with political kingship which is free of all meanings of authority.

However there is an argument that the state in Islam can be approached by the concept of daulah.

Three groups of political thought arose regarding the issue of the relationship between Islam and the state.

  1. The conservative group (classical and fundamentalist want to integrate Islam and the state according al-Quran and Sunnah)-closed system
  2. The modernists recognise only Quran and Hadits-open system
  3. The secularists that argue Islam and the state should be separated (liberal Islam)-open system

First , Malaysians have a problem with the issue of identity among themselves in terms of what it means to be Malaysian and Malay or another ethnic background since Malays are defined Islam in constitution. This problem leads to the problem of perception on what kind of Islam could be implemented in Malaysia as a secular state.

Second , it is interesting to emphasize that Malaysia is a secular state. However, in the last two decades the government has promoted Islam as a tool of development. At the same time, the Islamic parties are still eager to have Malaysia become a fully Islamic state by implementing Islamic law for all Muslims in Malaysia.

Third , the debate on an Islamic state has led different groups of Malaysians to form their own interpretation of this concept. So far, this investigation has provided a brief portrayal of Muslim and non-Muslim interpretations of what an Islamic state is.

Fourth, the Malaysian government also plays a major role in promoting this country as an Islamic state, by suggesting the concept of Islam Hadhari and Wasatiyyah.

Can Islam be secularized?

No secularization has taken place in the world of Islam. Secularism is declining in acceptability and is unlikely to serve as an ideological basis for political liberalism. Secularism destroys the sanctity and universality (transcendence) of all moral values ... secularism is necessarily atheistic.
       
Can these line of thoughts be mistaken in their assessment of social and intellectual life in Malaysia?

In the social sciences, one of the commonest theses is the secularisation thesis, which runs as follows. Under conditions prevailing in industrial-scientific society, the hold of religion over society and its people diminishes. 

By and large this is true, but it is not completely true, for there is one major exception, Islam. In the last hundred years the hold of Islam over Muslims has not diminished but has rather increased. It is one striking counter-example to the secularisation thesis.” At a time when many believed in the inevitability of secularization in development, “the one striking example” that events in recent decades do underscore the seeming “ hold of Islam over Muslims.” 

The conventional wisdom that assumed the centrality of secularism in a modern state and viewed religion as only a private affair has been challenged in much of the Muslim world. The resurgence of Islam in Muslim politics and society has in fact signaled a “Retreat from the Secular Path.” 

For more than three decades, Islam has been a major force in public life: in newly created Islamic states and republics, mainstream political and social movements and in major jihadist movements. While some seek Islamization from above through, increasingly many opt for a process of Islamization from below, through social change.

The global political resurgence of religions in the last decades of the twentieth century has challenged, some might say discredited, the belief, indeed dogma, of the prophets of modernity. The discrediting of secular paradigms has been particularly vivid in the Islamic world. 

The Iranian revolution, the emergence of new Islamic republics in Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan, and the use of Islam by Muslim governments and opposition movements, the participation and success of Islamic candidates and movements in local and national elections reaffirm the presence and power of Islamic ideology and discourse in Muslim politics and societies. 

Some critics talk of the collapse or bankruptcy of secularism and the need to replace it with religiously based states. Others wish to trim its sails, to modify modern secular states with an infusion of religious values.

Both Muslim opinion globally and the rethinking of Islam among many Islamic intellectual activists reflect the current rethinking of the relationship of Islam to secularism. 

Influential Islamic intellectual activists and religious leaders, neo-traditionalists and post modernist, across the Muslim world engage in a process of rethinking Islam’s relationship to secularism and modern Muslim states.

Citizens in countries in which Muslims are a majority report that, if they had their way, they would opt for greater political participation, freedoms, rule of law but not for a totally secular state. 

Although Muslim perceptions of what the Sharia represents and the degree to which it is possible to implement its rulings in society varies enormously, most believers desire a system of government in which religious principles and democratic values coexist. 

In other words, most Muslims do not view religious authority and political authority as mutually exclusive and see a role for religious principles in the formulation of state legislation. 

Muslim reformers in the twenty-first century, whether secular or Islamically oriented, contend with two realities or hurdles for reform: 

(1) broad-based Muslim public opinion that favors both greater democratization and Sharia as a source of law and 

(2) the need to address the continued centrality and authority of the classical tradition of Islamic law. 

While secular reformers ignore or wish to dismiss the relationship of religion to the state in arguing that today a Muslim country can also be secular, many others while admiring and desiring many of the principles and institutions associated with Western secular democracies do not want a Western secular nor an Islamic/theocratic state. 

Instead they opt for a state that reflects the importance and force of Islamic principles and values as they proceed to engage in wide ranging reformist thinking. Successful reformers and social movements, from traditionalist to more liberal orientations, engaged in rethinking Islam and its relationship to secularism and democracy, will continue to need to give importance to their framing narrative to legitimate and mobilize popular support.

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