Malaysia’s Election Exposes Religious Friction

March 11, 2008 01:35 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The ruling coalition Barisan Nasional saw its biggest loss in the country’s half-century of independence. Religion and the Internet may have impacted the results.

30-Second Summary

Malaysia’s elections last weekend brought light to the religious tension that has been building within the government. Ethnic Malays joined the nation’s non-Muslim minorities in weakening the power of the long-ruling UMNO party, the largest party in the BN coalition.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, creator of the blog Malaysia Today, told Al Jazeera that although some voters simply hate Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his UMNO party, “many, including ethnic Malays, took offence to racist remarks against ethnic Indians and Chinese ... telling them to go back to their ancestral villages if they didn’t like living here anymore.”

In fact, members of the UMNO have made it clear that they highly favor Muslims, with one member saying he was willing “to bathe in blood to defend the Malay race and religion,” according to Time magazine.

Although Malaysia’s predominantly non-Muslim Chinese and Indian minorities are guaranteed religious freedom under the nation’s constitution, some still feel the encroachment of Islam, considered the nation’s official faith, on their lives.

An Indian woman named Kaliammal Sinnasamy unsuccessfully fought with authorities to have her husband’s last rites done in the Hindu tradition after officials claimed that he had secretly converted to Islam.

In addition to public unrest over the UMNO’s policies, Malaysia Today credits the Internet with fomenting opposition: “The broadcast media of the old regime gave way to the new, subaltern media of the revolutionary forces … Revolutionary ideals and notions of social justice were disseminated far fast, far, and wide through the Internet.”

Headline Link: ‘Malaysia PM: Lessons to be Learned’

Background: Ethnic Malays, the constitution and the role of Islam

Key Player: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Opinion & Analysis: Opposition shocker

Reference: Malaysia

Related Topic: ‘Malaysian Woman Jailed for “Teapot Worship”’


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