Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may profess to have a vision of ‘One Malaysia,’ but it’s looking like an increasingly strange interpretation of harmony and unity.
Supposedly (depending on who you listen to) secular Malaysia has a majority Muslim population (about 60 percent) but also sizeable Indian and Chinese communities. Yet the government has increasingly been pandering to its conservative base in what critics say is an effort to deflect from its political shortcomings.
The latest example was the government’s announcement Sunday that it would appeal a High Court ruling allowing non-Muslims the right to use the word Allah. This appeal comes on the back of hotel raids by the country’s Islamic morality police on New Year’s Day in which dozens of couples were arrested for sharing confined spaces.
The government undoubtedly has its eye on the growing popularity of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which has called for the extended use of Sharia law and which made significant electoral inroads in the 2008 general election. But such moves to court more conservative voters are a disappointing and dangerous game that no amount of woolly rhetoric over inclusiveness can hide.