The Evolving Face of Religious Tolerance in Post-Colonial Malaysia: Understanding Its Shaping Factors

by Osman Bakar

Source: Islam and Civilisational Renewal, vol. 2, no. 4 (July 2011), pp. 621-638.

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Abstract: This article offers a survey of the state of religious tolerance in Malaysia since her independence from Britain in 1957. Its core concern, however, is with the prevailing current public perceptions on the state of religious tolerance in the country, the outstanding challenges to its progress, and the adequacy of measures being taken by the relevant authorities, agencies, and organisations in dealing with the challenges in question. In order to put the discussion on these current public perceptions in its proper perspectives, in the view of the author it would be desirable for the discussion to be preceded by an adequate presentation on the historical development of interreligious relations in Malaysia since independence. Highlighted in this historical account are the salient features of interreligious relations over the decades that helped to determine the nature and extent of religious tolerance, as well as the impact of the Islamic revival in the 1970s and the Western-originated human rights discourse on interreligious relations in Malaysia. The author also discusses the current public perceptions and their understanding of its underlying issues. On the basis of these perceptions he makes several inferences regarding the state of religious tolerance in contemporary Malaysia.

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