Survey: More Johor Malays have hardline Islamic thinking

ISEAS fellow Norshahril Saat

PETALING JAYA: A survey commissioned by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on the role of Islam and its governance in Johor has shown Malays in the state are becoming more religiously conservative, the Straits Times (ST) reported today.

It said most Johorean Malays preferred Muslims in key leadership positions, while three in four were supportive of hudud, the Islamic criminal punishment that includes stoning for adultery and amputation for theft.

It also found that 57% of them wanted hudud to be applicable to all Malaysians regardless of their religion.

ISEAS fellow Norshahril Saat was quoted as saying that such conservatism was previously associated only with Malays living in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

“Johor is more developed economically and more urban than the other states, so we would expect them to be more modern and to think of Islam as a more progressive religion,” he said.

“The Johor case confirms the findings that there is rising Islamic revivalist thinking in contemporary Malaysia today.”

The report said the survey was commissioned as part of the Singapore-based institute’s study on social, economic and political trends in Johor.

A 2013 survey on Johor residents had not delved into religion, but on attitudes towards governance and economy, Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore.

On Sept 27, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, had reprimanded the owner of a laundrette in Muar for promoting a Muslim-only customer policy, telling him to operate his business in Afghanistan if he wanted to continue such a practice.

In November 2015, the Sultan said there should be no issue about Muslims joining those of other faiths in celebrating their festivals, following calls for Muslims to shun such events.

“This is what Bangsa Johor is about. It promotes closeness, tolerance and mutual respect for each other regardless of race and religion. We should celebrate this in peace and harmony,” the Sultan had said.

Rashaad Ali, an analyst with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), was quoted by the ST as saying the Sultan should be commended for taking a strong position where others were silent.

“Perhaps in this regard, it bodes well for Johor compared to the rest of the nation, since their leader is willing to speak out against religious intolerance,” he said.

He however said some Malay-Muslims, whether or not they were Johoreans, supported the implementation of hudud solely on the basis that it was “Islamic” and their identity as Muslims almost obligated them to give the law their backing.

The survey polled 2,011 respondents from Johor from May to June this year on their views on the role of Islam, governance and the Johor Sultan.

Of those interviewed, 55% were Malays, 38% were Chinese and 7% were Indians.

The report also said 94% of Malays agreed that “the Johor Sultan is a good guardian of Islam in the state”, although they may not necessarily agree with his views on Arabisation, Islamisation and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

On Oct 14, Sultan Ibrahim ordered the Johor Islamic Religious Department (Jaij) to cease its dealings with Jakim after its former officer Zamihan Mat Zin supported the laundrette and criticised the Sultan for rebuking the owner’s Muslim-only policy.