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Piety and Politics

Piety and Politics

Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia
Autore/i: Liow Joseph Chinyong
Editore: Oxford University Press
pp. XX-264, New York

This book challenges conventional wisdom by arguing that tectonic movements and subterranean shifts that underscore the gradual politicization of Islam and the rise of an Islamism in political and popular discourse based on conservatism and orthodoxy have long been at work in Malaysia, despite popular media representations of Malaysia as the epitome of moderate, progressive Islamic governance. While the opposition Islamist party is widely regarded as the main Islamist player in the drama, the book suggests that the ruling regime has proven equally strident in its Islamist predilections, at times to the extent that there is little differentiating the two. The net result of this “Islamization race” has been the increasing alienation of Malaysia’s non-Muslim population from mainstream politics that has increasingly come to be defined with decidedly Islamist referents. The book also explores two previously underexplored dimensions of Muslim politics in Malaysia. First, it investigates the role of Islamic civil society movements in negotiating and redefining the parameters of Islamism. This dimension has greater salience today given that Islamic civil society movements and coalitions have located themselves at the forefront of major debates over religious freedoms, civil liberties, constitutional rights, the sanctity of shari’a, and the nature and manifestation of the Islamic state. Second, it investigates Islamism as expressed in “netizen politics.” Both these dynamics underscore the rise of Muslim conservatism in Malaysia in general, and constitute major challenges to our traditional understanding of the nature of politics and political compromise in the country.

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