At the recent Syposium entitled “Understanding Shariah from the Religious and Rights Perspectives”, Aston Paiva presented a paper that has garnered attention.
Citing a paper entitled “Islamic Law, Women’s Rights, and Popular Legal Consciousness in Malaysia” by Tamir Moustafa (based on research by the Merdeka Centre), Aston points out that there is a lot of misconception amongst Muslims in Malaysia regarding the source of the various State laws that regulate the practice of Islam in Malaysia.
Aston also cites Moustafa’s paper (which has previously been summarized on LoyarBurok) which shows a small change in terminology resulted in a sea change in the way the Malaysian government dealt with Muslims, where Moustafa says the government “reconstituted Islamic law in ways that are better understood as a subversion of the Islamic legal tradition.”
With his usual eloquence, Aston opens his concluding remarks setting out his vision of the way forward in this way:
Malaysian politicians have appropriated the word ‘Syariah’ from the Malaysian Muslim community for their own self-centered political pursuits. They have named laws passed by State Legislatures, and courts created by State law, after it. In doing so, they have defiled the sanctity associated with the word ‘Syariah’, and reduced it to a tool for sloganeering (to increase their credentials), political one-upmanship (to “discredit” their opponents) and to misrepresent Malaysia to Malaysians (fracturing democracy).
As a result, many Malaysians (particularly Muslims) now live in ignorance about their constitutional rights, of Islam and of each other’s religious heritage.
Malaysians, Malaysia and Islam deserve better.
Read the full paper here: Syariah in Malaysia.