Thursday, 12 October 2017

Islamic intolerance rising in pre-election Malaysia

An uptick in religious controversies coincides with premier Najib Razak's bid to rally Muslim majority voters ahead of new polls

A string of racial and religious incidents in Malaysia has brought concerns of rising Islamic conservatism to the fore, widening the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims as the government plays on identity issues ahead of what is expected to be a jarring and contentious election season.

Two annual beer festivals were recently cancelled following political objections raised by leaders of the hardline Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which claimed it has a “social responsibility” to oppose alcohol festivals and that the events would turn Kuala Lumpur into “the largest vice center in Asia.”

The ‘Better Beer Fest’, an annual craft beer showcase held without incident since 2012, was cancelled weeks before it was scheduled to take place. Police maintain their decision to bar the event was due to threats of a militant attack, though organizers believe authorities intervened due to political pressure.

An annual Oktoberfest celebration held at the 1 Utama Shopping Center in Selangor, a wealthy opposition-held state with a large upper-middle class non-Muslim population, was forced to cancel hours before the event was set to start. The cancellation, also due to alleged security reasons, resulted in financial losses of more than US$70,000 for the organizers.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at