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Constituting Religion: Islam, Liberal Rights, and the Malaysian State

Moustafa, Tamir (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia)

978 1 108 43917 6
List price(s):
29.99 USD
21.99 GBP
25.66 EUR

Publication date:
25 July 2018

Short description: 

Constituting Religion examines how constitutional provisions for both Islam and liberal rights catalyze conflicts over religion in Malaysia and feed a 'rights-versus-rites' binary. This title is also available as Open Access.

Full description: 

Most Muslim-majority countries have legal systems that enshrine both Islam and liberal rights. While not necessarily at odds, these dual commitments nonetheless provide legal and symbolic resources for activists to advance contending visions for their states and societies. Using the case study of Malaysia, Constituting Religion examines how these legal arrangements enable litigation and feed the construction of a 'rights-versus-rites binary' in law, politics, and the popular imagination. By drawing on extensive primary source material and tracing controversial cases from the court of law to the court of public opinion, this study theorizes the 'judicialization of religion' and the radiating effects of courts on popular legal and religious consciousness. The book documents how legal institutions catalyze ideological struggles, which stand to redefine the nation and its politics. Probing the links between legal pluralism, social movements, secularism, and political Islamism, Constituting Religion sheds new light on the confluence of law, religion, politics, and society. This title is also available as Open Access.

Table of contents: 

Introduction: constituting religion; 1. The constitutive power of law and courts; 2. The secular roots of Islamic law in Malaysia; 3. Islam and liberal rights in the federal constitution; 4. The judicialization of religion; 5. Constructing the political spectacle: liberal rights versus Islam in the court of public opinion; 6. The rights-versus-rites binary in popular legal consciousness; 7. 'Islam is the religion of the federation'; Conclusion; Appendix: religion of the state, source law, and repugnancy clause provisions among Muslim-majority countries; Bibliography; Index.


Tamir Moustafa is Professor of International Studies and Stephen Jarislowsky Chair at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. His research stands at the intersection of law, religion, and politics. Among other work, he is the author of The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt (Cambridge, 2007) and he is the co-editor of Rule by Law: The Politics of Law and Courts in Authoritarian Regimes with Tom Ginsburg (Cambridge, 2008).




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