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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Islamic resurgence and the stability of Malay non-elite support Robinson, Geoffrey


This study analyzes the political implications of the Islamic resurgence in Malaysia. Based on a theoretical interest in the relationship between non-elite support and political stability, it examines the impact of Islam on the government's ability to maintain the support of the Malay population. Contrary to much of the existing literature on the subject, it argues that the Islamic resurgence, at present, does not pose a serious threat to the stability of Malay non-elite support for the political leadership. It further argues that the maintenance of Malay support has, so far, been achieved without jeopardizing the stability and legitimacy of the political system as a whole. The absence of political destabilization under the influence of the Islamic resurgence is explained, in this study, by reference to two related sets of factors: (1) Societal Conditions; and (2) State Policy. It is suggested that the Islamic resurgence expresses social, economic, political, and religious differences, both between Malays and non-Malays, and within the Malay community. At present, the intra-Malay cleavages form a multipolar rather than a bipolar pattern, and it is argued that this configuration tends to limit the chances for the emergence of a strong, coherent Islamic opposition movement. Under the conditions of an external threat to Islam, the pattern could be expected to become less fragmented and more polarized, thereby affording a greater opportunity for the growth of such a movement. State policies have been effective at undercutting the appeal of anti-government Islamic groups and parties - especially where these policies have reinforced the societal limitations on the emergence of an Islamic opposition.

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