Date/Time: Thursday, October 26, 2023 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)
Dr. Garry Rodan (Honorary Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland).
“Islamist Civilizationism in Malaysia,” by Dr. Syaza Farhana Mohamad Shukri (Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia).
Brief Biographies and Abstracts
Dr. Garry Rodan is an Honorary Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. His thematic research interest is the relationship between capitalist development and political regime directions in Southeast Asia. Attempting to characterise and explain dynamic forms of authoritarianism has been a particular focus. His authored books include Participation without Democracy and The Politics of Accountability in Southeast Asia.
Political Islam and Islamist Populism in Malaysia: Implications for Nation-Building
Abstract: As an offshoot of the global Islamic resurgence that has swept the Muslim world since the 1980s, Islamist violence in Malaysia has been very much the exception rather than the rule. Without dismissing claims of the presence of various social, political and psychological factors that purportedly influence militants into intermittently translating their violent extremist dispositions into actual occurrences of terrorism, the speaker argues that the ideology of hatred of allegedly less than Islamic established authorities and of the ‘Other,’ of which include both non-Muslims and Muslims who do not practice their faith, goads its adherents into becoming politically aggressive in a mostly non-violently manner towards their perceived enemies. The line of reasoning they adopt is specifically ‘Islamist,’ referring to politically arbitrary interpretations of Islam, rather than ‘Islamic’ as per the Islamic faith as interrogated through its multi-faceted dimensions. It is also ‘populist’ in the sense of capitalizing on the popular sentiments of the indigenous Malay-Muslim populace. Dragged into ethno-religious political antics such as to portray their political adversaries as proxies of non-Malay interests intent on subverting a Malay-dominated ethnocratic state, the Malay-Muslims find an avenue for such racially-tinged discourse in social media, with deleterious consequences for nation-building. Since November 2022, such voices have found themselves to be uncharacteristically positioned on the opposition side within Malaysia’s broad democratic landscape, where competitive elections are regularly held, opposition is legalised and civil society given room to grow, amidst unfair advantages and lop-sided access to state machineries that accrue to the ruling government of the day.
Bio: Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid is Professor of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia, and an elected member of the USM Senate. He graduated from the universities of Oxford, Leeds and Newcastle, United Kingdom. He was a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) (February 2021-January 2022), and has held Visiting Fellowships with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore (2008-2009); the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore (2015-2016); the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuala Lumpur (October-December 2020), and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, United Kingdom as Scholar-in-Residence (January-June 2021). A prolific author in the political Islam of Southeast Asia, Ahmad Fauzi has published over fifty scholarly articles in leading journals such as Indonesia and the Malay World, Islamic Studies, Asian Studies Review, Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Journal of Political Science, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Asian Survey, Pacific Affairs, Sojourn, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations,Contemporary Southeast Asia, The Round Table, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Politics, Religion and Ideology. He has also contributed over forty book chapters to edited volumes produced by prestigious international publishers, the latest being ‘Different streams of Malay nationalism from the late colonial to contemporary eras’, in Lu Zhouxiang (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Nationalism in East and Southeast Asia (New York and London: Routledge, 2024) (with Azmi Arifin). Ahmad Fauzi presently serves as editor-in-chief of Kajian Malaysia: Journal of Malaysian Studies and an editorial board member of Kemanusiaan: The Asian Journal of Humanities, both published by USM Press. Since December 2018, he has been serving as consultant expert for Malaysia’s Home Ministry, on terrorism cases investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) 2012.Email: email@example.com
Islamist Civilizationism in Malaysia
Abstract: Malaysia is known for having a racially and religiously diverse population. Nonetheless, the majority of the population identifies as Malay and, therefore, legally as Muslim. Although the formation of the Malay identity began immediately after World War II, the severe divide between Muslims and non-Muslims resulted from the New Economic Policy of 1971, which prioritized the Malay-Muslim population in the name of reducing poverty and stabilizing the nation. With the Malay-nationalist party, UMNO, being in control for six decades, the position of the Malays became undisputed. However, international, and domestic developments such as the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the Global War on Terror, and the splintering of Malay votes in the 2000s moved UMNO to shift its narrative from Malay ethnonationalism to fighting the Muslim cause. By conflating ethnicity and religion, Malay political leaders employed Islamist civilizational populist discourses to ensure the continued support of the people, even at the expense of non-Muslim Malaysians. Islamist civilizational populism is an effective method to unite the majority Muslim population in a divided nation like Malaysia when existing policies have failed to foster unity. As a result, Malay-Muslims have carved a larger civilizational identity, and with the rise of Islamist politics around the world, it has become much easier for them to emphasize the plight of Muslims over that of their own co-nationalists.
Bio: Dr. Syaza Shukri is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. Her area of specialization is in comparative politics, specifically in democratization and politics in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Her current research interests include populism, identity politics, inter-ethnic relations, political Islam, geopolitics, and gender studies, specifically in Muslim-majority contexts.
Among Dr. Shukri’s recent works is “Populism and Muslim Democracies,” published in Asian Politics & Policy. She is also currently working on a book chapter on Islamist populism in Malaysia since 2018.
Dr. Shukri has degrees from the University of Pittsburgh (where she graduated summa cum laude), the London School of Economics and Political Science, and International Islamic University Malaysia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authoritarian Populism in Singapore
Abstract: With its reputation for political stability, social cohesion, and economic wealth, global-city Singapore is very rarely discussed as a case for thinking about populist politics. Kenneth Paul Tan will explore what lies behind this reputation and discuss how the Singapore system, led by a government celebrated as clean, meritocratic, and pragmatic, is now showing signs of change not necessarily in the direction of democratization, but towards authoritarian forms of populism, first of the right and then of the left.
Bio: Kenneth Paul TAN is a tenured Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He teaches and conducts interdisciplinary research at the Academy of Film, the Department of Journalism, the Department of Government and International Studies, and the Smart Society Lab. His books include Asia in the Old and New Cold Wars: Ideologies, Narratives, and Lived Experiences (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023), Movies to Save Our World: Imagining Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Destruction in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2022), Singapore’s First Year of COVID-19: Public Health, Immigration, the Neoliberal State, and Authoritarian Populism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Governing Global-City Singapore: Legacies and Futures After Lee Kuan Yew (Routledge, 2017), Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension (Brill, 2008), and Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics (NUS Press, 2007). Previously, he was a tenured Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. He has held visiting fellowships, and honorary and adjunct professorships at the Australian National University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Georgetown University (on a Fulbright Fellowship), Harvard University, Sciences Po, the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the University of Hong Kong. His degrees are from the University of Cambridge (PhD, Social and Political Sciences) and the University of Bristol (BSc First Class Honours, Economics and Politics).
Populism, religion, and anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in Malaysia
Abstract: Ethno-religious politics in Malaysia continue to have a significant impact upon the country’s democratic transition, especially since the historic 2018 and 2022 general elections. Both elections involved moral and populist battles between political rivals, in which the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) people were – and continue to be – weaponized by ethno-religious nationalists as well as political leaders who have seemingly adopted more reformist rhetoric. But can anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in Malaysia be explained simply as a cause of religiously inspired populism? This presentation probes this question by discussing some longer-term trends in the so-called Islamisation process in Malaysia at the levels of political rhetoric, implementation, and new frontiers in online interactions.
Bio: Dr. Shanon Shah is Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London. In this capacity, he conducts research with the Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (Inform) and teaches at the University of London Worldwide’s Divinity programme. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from King’s College London. Dr Shah’s research and teaching interests include the ethnographic study of religion, contemporary Islam and Christianity, gender and sexuality, minority religions and alternative spiritualities, and environmental and social justice movements. He is the author of the monograph The Making of a Gay Muslim: Religion, Sexuality and Identity in Malaysia and Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Dr Shah is also the director of Faith for the Climate, a British charity focusing on collaborative action by faith groups to address the climate crisis.