Truce and Tales in New Malaysia: Happy First Anniversary

The ASAN Forum, Vol 7 (4), June 2019

The expression “New Malaysia” or Malaysia Baharu emerged in 2016 as a semantic capsule for the democratic aspirations of the movement for electoral reform Bersih (“clean” in Malay), whose rally in November of that year brought more than 100,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur. On May 9, 2018 the opposition coalition, Pact of Hope (Pakatan Harapan or PH), led by Mahathir Mohammad, won the general elections, slaying 61 years of single party rule. Malaysia Baharu was born; and with it, the hopes of democratization.

The Downfall of Malaysia's Ruling Party

Journal of Democracy, Vol 29(4), 114 - 128 October 2018

General elections in May 2018 saw the downfall of controversial prime minister Najib Razak—and an end to the monopoly on power enjoyed by the ethnonationalist United Malays National Organization (UMNO) for the whole of independent Malaysia’s 61-year history. Key to this peaceful electoral revolution was an unlikely alliance between former archenemies: nonagenarian ex–prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and reformasi opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who under Mahathir’s government had been publicly denounced and jailed on politically motivated charges. Along with this surprising reconciliation of bitter rivals, the fallout of the massive 1MDB corruption scandal and a broader re-shuffling of Malaysia’s party landscape created new electoral dynamics. While it seems clear that democratization has gotten underway, with Mahathir once again occupying the premiership and a handover of power to Anwar promised, Malaysia’s new governing coalition rests on a fragile equilibrium.

Islamist Echoes in the context of the Tunisian Islamist Party's 10th Congress

European University Institute, Max Weber Programme, July 2017

Since the uprising in 2011, Tunisia is seen as a political lab whose experiences impact the entire region. The return to the political scene of the of the Islamists of the Ennahdha Party, and their democratic ascension to power, came as a surprise, if not a shock, to many international and local observers. The party became a key actor beyond national borders and took a step further by marking its 10th Congress with the announcement of the separation of its political and religious activities. The Tunisian experience is represented as an example for other Islamist parties so should we see the secularization of Ennahdha’s discourse as being at the forefront of the Islamist movement? Or has the party already gone beyond Islamism, and in fact created a rupture with other Islamist parties? Re-branding does not imply a change in ideology but a change of perception, inside and outside the party. This analysis looks at the perception of the reform intended by Ennahdha from the point of view of foreign Islamist parties in the context of the 10th Party Congress in May 2016.

Genesis and Development of a “non-Partisan” Political Actor: the Formation of the Jama’ah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and its Roots in Western Europe

Al-Jami‘ah, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2009 M/1430 H

This chapter looks at the genesis and development of the Jama’ah Islah Malaysia (JIM), a modernist-reformist Islamist organisation that today has played a vital and visible role in the political landscape of Malaysian politics. Little is known about the early genesis of JIM, and how it began in the 1970s and 1980s as a student-based cadre organisation, created by Malaysian Muslim students studying abroad in Europe and North America. JIM’s roots therefore lie in the Islamic Representative Council (IRC) that was a semi-underground student-cadre movement that was created outside Malaysia, and which aimed to bring about the Islamisation of Malaysian society through the process of social and political mobilisation. Working through the archives of JIM today and interviewing the founder members of JIM and the IRC, this chapter is the first historical account of the formation and development of IRC and JIM to be published.

Apostasy and Islamic Civil Society in Malaysia

ISIM Review 20 / Autumn 2007

In Malaysia, legal definitions of the religious category “Muslim” and ethnic category “Malay” imply each other. Consequently, Muslims who have renounced Islam find themselves in an abyssal legal zone. The legal intricacies and the media representations surrounding apostasy reveal tensions between “the secular” and “the religious,” thereby providing insight into the imbalanced and bifurcated nature of civil society in Malaysia.