Middle Eastern Influences on Islamist Organizations in Malaysia: The Cases of ISMA, IRF and HTM

Middle Eastern Influences on Islamist Organizations in Malaysia: The Cases of ISMA, IRF and HTM
Date of publication:  2016
Publisher:  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  28
Code:  TRS2/16

About the publication

Interaction between Muslims in Malaysia and their Middle Eastern brethren has consistently been a source of apprehension to the powers-that-be from colonial times till today.

Islamist activism in Malaysia has indeed undergone changes, and these did indeed arise from contemporary Middle Eastern influences. The religious thought, practices and lifestyles of Muslims in Malaysia have traditionally been regarded as moderate. Of particular importance in the present context is the transmission of puritanical interpretations of Islam.

Furthermore, the Malaysian version of Islamist puritanism has always been pragmatic rather than dogmatic, moderated by its multi-cultural and multi-religious setting. But newer strands of Islamism influenced by developments in the Middle East have alarmed authorities.

The impact of this Middle East-driven wave of Islamism is not restricted to Malaysian chapters of transnational extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda. However, in Malaysia, the influence is more varied in its organizational impact. Newly formed Muslim organizations such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA, or Muslim Solidarity Front), the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and Hizb at-Tahrir Malaysia (HTM) are all found to have maintained strong Middle Eastern links, both at the discursive or organizational levels.All three movements in question have so far not displayed violent tendencies although their versions of Islamism exhibit varying degrees of ideological absolutism, distinguishing them markedly from the wave of Islamism that engulfed Malaysia in the 1980s.


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