Seminar: Has Malaysian Islam been Salafized?



About the Seminar

Recent surveys have worryingly suggested that there has been a rise in the level of extremism among Muslims in Malaysia, although the majority remain moderate in orientation. This tallies with media reports on increasing numbers of Malay-Muslim youth harbouring attraction towards radical Islamist movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This presentation posits that the form of Islam that is normatively understood and practised in Malaysia i.e. Malaysian Islam, has undergone myriad changes as a result of gradual internalization of the Wahhabi brand of Salafism since the 1970s. Salafization, referring to a process of mindset and attitudinal transformation rather than the growth of Salafi nodes per se, is not restricted to individuals or groups identified as ‘Salafi’, but rather affects practically all levels of Malay-Muslim society, cutting across political parties, governmental institutions and non-state actors. Powered by petrodollars, this new wave of Salafization has eclipsed an earlier Salafi trend which spawned the Kaum Muda reformist movement. It has also resulted in Islamist, rather than Islamic, ideals increasingly defining the tenor of mainstream Islam in Malaysia, with debilitating consequences in the fields of both intra-Muslim and inter-religious relations. However, the Malay-Muslim powers that be in Malaysia conveniently ignore the Wahhabi-Salafi onslaught for expedient reasons, thus putting social pluralism at stake.

About the Speaker

AHMAD FAUZI ABDUL HAMID is Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, and Professor of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia. Trained as a political scientist and political economist at the universities of Oxford, Leeds and Newcastle, UK, his research interests lie within the field of political Islam in Southeast Asia. Ahmad Fauzi has published over forty scholarly articles in leading journals such as Indonesia and the Malay World, Islamic Studies, Asian Studies Review, Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Journal of Political Science, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Asian Survey, Pacific Affairs, Sojourn and Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. He regularly contributes book chapters to edited volumes, the most recent being ‘Sociopolitical Developments in West Asia and Their Impact on Christian Minorities in the Region’, in Felix Wilfred (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia (New  York: Oxford University Press, 2014); ‘The Hudud Controversy in Malaysia: Religious Probity or Political Expediency?’, in Daljit Singh (ed.), Southeast Asian Affairs 2015 (Singapore: ISEAS, 2015); and ‘Globalization of Islamic Education in Southeast Asia’, in Ken Miichi and Omar Farouk (eds.), Southeast Asian Muslims in the Era of Globalization (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Ahmad Fauzi has published three research monographs, namely Islamic Education in Malaysia (RSIS, 2010), Political Islam and Islamist Politics in Malaysia (ISEAS, 2013) and Middle Eastern Influences on Islamist Organizations in Malaysia: The Cases of ISMA, IRF and HTM (ISEAS, 2016 – co-authored with Che Hamdan Che Mohd. Razali). His latest contribution to knowledge, published in April 2016, is an article in ISEAS’s flagship journal, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 38, no. 1 (2016), pp. 28-54, entitled ‘Syariahization of Intra-Muslim Religious Freedom and Human Rights Practice in Malaysia: The Case of Darul Arqam’. Earlier this month, Ahmad Fauzi featured in a panel discussion on ‘Islam in the Contemporary World’ in Channel News Asia’s ‘Between the Lines’ talkshow.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 24 May 2016.


May 25 2016


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2