Couple of things to note here:
The political motivations are quite obvious and it is almost funny to watch it alongside the Islamic Center controversy in NYC (and no, you still cannot defend the idiotic political opposition to the Islamic Center). While the first part of the video is good in highlighting this particular controversy, I think the interviews in the second part are more instructive in showing the struggle taking place within Islam in Malaysia (and similar debates elsewhere). One of the key points raised by the host (who did a nice job in keeping the discussion on track) is the notion of private versus state-enforced religion. This issue is not limited to Malaysia - but it takes a particular political turn there because of the presence of sizable non-Muslim minorities.
Not surprising at all, but another thing to note is the significantly different interpretations of Islam by the three guests - all the way from a fatwa-driven society to the notion of religion as a private matter. Similarly, it was interesting to note the mention of the differences of interpretation of Islam in Malaysia versus in places like Saudi Arabia or the rest of the Middle East. And I also loved the fact that one of the guests, Yusri Mohamad, expressing displeasure over mixing religion and politics - despite of him doing just that in the whole interview.
In many ways, Malaysia has done quite well in the last few decades. It is possible that the challenges it is facing these days are the result of these changes - perhaps the last hurrah of those against modernization and religious pluralism. But how it deals with its religious and ethnic minorities now may shape the direction of its future.
Check out the above segment from Al-Jazeera. And here is a bit from a BBC article about the recent controversy from earlier this year:
The results of the 2008 elections ramped up the tension.
The ruling coalition still won, but with a much reduced majority in the worst result in 50 years.
Norani Othman, a professor at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, says that after independence, there was a national emphasis on consensus-building and equality.
That was adapted, after race riots in 1969, to more overtly pro-Malay policies.
As Muslim nations around the world struggled to modernise, yet not lose touch with their traditional roots, the influence of Islamist parties expanded.
In Malaysia, that pitted the ruling United National Malays Organisation (Umno) against the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) with the result that the 1980s saw a deliberate process of Islamisation.
What were once affirmative action policies geared to help Malays "catch up" with other Malaysians became policies enshrining Malay primacy or ascendancy, and being Malay meant being Muslim.
Institutions deemed to conform with Islamic principles and values were created - Islamic banks, Islamic insurance, Islamic university - there was even talk of "Islamising knowledge".
The list of matters judged to be under the jurisdiction of Islamic laws has expanded over the decades.
Just as the so-called race riots of 1969 were in fact a sign of systemic breakdown, as Australian academic Clive Kessler argues, so do the current tensions pose a direct challenge to Malaysia's founding aspirations of a diverse and democratic nation, argues Prof Othman.
Read the full article here.