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Malaysia

Annual Report - Chapters and Summaries

  • Malaysia Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

    Malay Translation

    Key Findings

    In 2016, opposition to the government from both within and outside political spheres negatively impacted religious freedom as stakeholders increasingly jockeyed for support ahead of the 2018 general elections. This ongoing trend continued to invigorate individuals and groups who believe Sunni Islam is the only true form of Islam and that Malaysia must prioritize the Malay Muslim identity, often to the disadvantage of religious and ethnic minorities. The Malaysian government actively restricts freedom of expression and punishes those who criticize it, including online. During 2016, the Malaysian parliament considered a measure to strengthen punishments under the Islamic penal code and bolster Shari’ah courts at a time when the jurisdictional lines between Shari’ah and civil courts are increasingly indistinct; parliament is expected to further debate the matter in 2017. A landmark court decision enabled a man who was converted to Islam as a child to finally be recognized as a Christian, though many legal challenges remain for those choosing to convert and those involved in interfaith custody disputes. The government continues to ban so-called “deviant” religious groups, such as the Shi’a Muslim, Ahmadiyya, Baha’i, and Al-Arqam communities. In 2017, USCIRF again places Malaysia on its Tier 2, where it has been since 2014.