Recent Scholarship: Islamic Identity and the Malaysian Constitution

This week’s issue of SSRN’s Islamic Law & Law of the Muslim World eJournal includes a book chapter on Islam’s expanding role in Malaysian constitutional law. The chapter (available as a PDF; free SSRN registration may be required) was published in The Invisible Constitution in Comparative Perspective, edited by Rosalind Dixon and Adrienne Stone (Cambridge University Press, 2018):

“Malaysia’s Invisible Constitution” by Yvonne Tew


Religion has become the great fault line of the Malaysian constitutional order. Contemporary Malaysian politics and adjudication are divided by competing views over the constitutional identity of the modern Malaysian state as secular or Islamic. At the heart of this debate is Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which declares ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony’. Over the last two decades, the clause constitutionalizing Islam as the state religion has increasingly been pitted as being in tension with the right of religious freedom guaranteed under Article 11(1). This chapter considers the invisible constitution in connection with the Malaysian Constitution’s religion clauses. It explores the conceptual aspect of the unwritten, extra-textual influences surrounding the interpretation of the religion clauses, and also examines the deeper foundations of the constitutional framework underlying the visible text of Article 3(1).

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