Having seen the dynamics of Islam and politics in secular Indonesia, we turn our attention to Malaysia and the difficulties of reconciling political Islam with pluralism. In the following article, Maznah Mohamad, draws on the several recent incidents of religious intolerance as well as a questionable legal ruling to highlight the increasing Islamisation of the state. This paragraph, in particular, made me think of the difficulties inherent in trying to synthesise positive law from uncodified Islamic law:
Islamic laws in Malaysia are based on religious doctrine but codified and passed as statutes by state parliaments. Not much debate attends their enactment, because a fear of heresy keeps most critics from questioning anything deemed Islamic.
This is precisely the sort of inbuilt legislative awkwardness that prevents Islamic states such as Iran being considered truly democratic. The idea of sovereignty vested in the people is a fig leaf, as positive law must still conform to the diktats and dogma of the Qur’an, Sunnah of the infallibles and the legal opinions of both the faqih and his Guardian Council. Experience suggests that, just as in Iran, the Malaysian legislature must operate within a straightjacket; no laws can ‘transgress’ the eternal limits of the Shari’ah, whatever their democratic legitimacy.
This profoundly alien concept is what Mohsen Milani calls ‘limited popular sovereignty’. It’s just one of the many paradoxes manifested within a politico-legal system constrained by constant recourse to a divine law.