20 October 2016
The uneasy co-existence of civil and Shariah law in Malaysia and the polarising ethnic and religious divides within its population could be ameliorated by establishing an independent mediation committee.
In late August this year Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a proposed amendment to Malaysia’s Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976. The proposal is an attempt to resolve the recurring problem of highly-publicised custody battles over unilateral conversions of children by spouses who converted to Islam. Several of such court disputes, framed around religious freedom, have been pursued in Malaysia’s dual track legal system of civil and Shariah (Islamic law) courts in the past decade.
Amid the growing religiosity of the majority ethnic group, the Malays, who increasingly choose to identify themselves by religion and call for wider implementation of Islamic codes, laws that negatively and disproportionately affect non-Muslims serve as ominous harbingers of how secularity is being eroded within the Malaysian polity, especially for non-Muslims.
… Saleena Saleem is an Associate Research Fellow with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. A version of this commentary was jointly published earlier in the Policy Forum and New Mandala, The Australian National University.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 21/10/2016