Salafi Islamisation and Authoritarian Governance

Stream: Panel 25 - Comparative Politics: Faithful Contestations: Democratic Learning Curve of Islamists
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Malaysia’s Islamising authoritarian regime is fragmenting under the weight of a series of socio-political crises. Resistance to the regime, however, appears to be just as fragmented. In the 2013 elections, the long-serving Barisan Nasional coalition lost the popular vote to the Pakatan Raykat opposition coalition but controversially emerged victorious. Shortly after, Islamists from the opposition party PAS, tacitly encouraged by the BN government, initiated the implementation of hudud laws -despite its violation of the country’s secular-based Federal Constitution. This hudud initiative has fractured PAS, the opposition Pakatan coalition and the Islamist-oriented UMNO- a dominant party in the BN government. In particular, PAS ‘moderates’ have formed a breakaway Islamist party, elites linked to UMNO are galvanising against hudud and non-Muslims in overt civil resistance to the authoritarian Islamisation. The political ruptures instigated by the proposed imposition of hudud have been complicated further by serious corruption scandals embedded in a culture of rent-seeking. These scandals have galvanised establishment figures, business community and civil society to clamour for comprehensive policy reform. The paper examines Malaysia’s political convulsions by placing them within the context of state-led Islamisation and deteriorating governance standards. In doing so,the paper seeks to extend Vali Nasr’s state-led Islamisation and Abdullahi An Naim’s ‘Islam and democratic secularism’ paradigms by analysing the impact of salafi theology on the Malaysian state and society. The paper considers the relationship between authoritarian salafi theology and authoritarian governance and the imperative of mitigating this deepening authoritarian curve if Malaysia’s democratic constitutional foundations are to be reclaimed.


Lily Zubaidah Rahim (Presenter), University of Sydney
Lily Zubaidah Rahim is an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and a specialist in authoritarian governance, democratisation and citizenship rights in Southeast Asia and the Muslim world. Her books include The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community, (Oxford University Press) and Singapore in the Malay World: Building and Breaching Regional Bridges (Routledge) and Muslim secular democracy (Palgrave Macmillan). Lily is currently completing a book on authoritarian governance in Singapore. She has authored numerous book chapters and international journal articles and co-edited Special Issue journals.