Nur Fareha


Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life for Muslims; it covers all the things that Muslims do in their life. In other religions, we can see clear separations of power between the religion and the state. Islam doesn’t separate religion from state administrations. Islam is the state, as in ancient times. In the early period of Islamic history, the Caliphs were involved in every aspect of the state administrations and also as the military commander, involved in war and peace management, collecting taxes, laying down the law and dispensing justice.

Islam constitutes a complete social system that embraces all those who have accepted the faith as a way of life, including the economic, social, political, and other aspects of society. The system applies to all human beings, whether the man or a women is Muslim or non-Muslim. Therefore we cannot equate Islam and the Muslim, for the Muslim, a human being bound to err, can deviate from the rules and regulations set in Islam. Some misconceptions about Islam are due to the wrong beliefs and actions of Muslim, and others are due to a significant lack of understanding and false stereotyping.

In Malaysia, Islam has become an essential element in Malay politics. It is seen as an important approach by the Malay Muslim community in strengthening its political-cultural identity, particularly in their domestic and foreign relations.  The influencing concept of the role of Islam and its practice in domestic and foreign relations needs to be understood through the history of the religion in the Malaysia.

Public diplomacy may not be a current term in Malaysia, but the many efforts and actions of Malaysia under its many leaders has definitely developed robust activities of reliable and active public diplomacy policy. If public diplomacy is solely targeted at specific issues, it will not be easy to change public perceptions, for perceptions require changing in many levels to have any impact. Thus public diplomacy should widen its focus on building positive perceptions and relationships in other areas too.[1]

Malaysia’s foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy designed with the main objectives of protecting and promoting our national interests at home and abroad in aspects such as security, economic and other significant interests. With the dynamic and complex environment of world politics, the Malaysia government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to be constantly aware of global changes and respond effectively in order to ensure that Malaysia’s sovereignty and national interests are adequately protected and Malaysia’s views and positions are accordingly expressed in the international arena.

Interpretation from all the stake holders of the state and the behaviour of both Malaysia’s domestic and international publics are having a growing impact on Malaysia’s foreign policy. No state can live in isolation, thus Malaysia has to play a more significant role in world politics and economics. The Malaysian government believes that by using Islamic values in the nation’s administration will facilitate the increased use of public diplomacy tools to project an image of Islam and Malaysia as a whole, domestically and internationally, including the projection that this includes the Islamic principles of justice and fairness. [2]

This chapter shall discuss the overview, background and history of Islam in Malaysia’s administration. In order to understand Islam in Malaysia’s public diplomacy, we shall look back into history to understand the past and present decisions taken by its leaders, and the significance of Islamic practice and values in the nation’s administration and policy choices. 

This chapter will be divided into three parts. The first part will include Islam in the pre-colonial era covering the early history of Islam in the Malay Peninsula including the period of the Malay feudal system. The second part of this chapter will discuss the history of Islam during the colonial era. The third part will discuss Islam after Malaya’s independence, focusing on foreign and domestic policies since 1957, under the leadership of all of Malaysia’s Prime Ministers, namely Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussien Onn, Tun Mahathir Mohammad, Tun Abdullah Badawi and Dato Seri Najib Razak.

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