Sharia Politics in Nigeria and Malaysia: Governance, Islamization and Human Rights

  •  Tobi Angel Kolawole    
  •  Helen Ting M. H.    


Despite being federal secular states, the scope of Islamic law application and Islamic bureaucracy in both Nigeria and Malaysia has expanded tremendously under the influence of Islamist movements. Ideologically, Islamism aims to establish a political system based on Islamic tradition and the full implementation of Sharia law. Islamist activists in both countries have been working and pushing for the full implementation and enforcement of Islamic law including its criminal code which is also known as Hudud. Situating our analysis within a framework of the differentiated context of governance, this study expounds a comparative analysis of the processes of sharia implementation and the varying natures of human rights violation. Our analysis illustrates that the state failure in Nigeria cannot be resolved by replacing the secular political system with an Islamic one as the problem lies elsewhere. In Malaysia whereby state capacity in governance is much more effective, problems peculiar to the contemporary Islamic doctrine such as the theological interpretation of apostasy from the perspective of human rights are aggravated by a strong state capacity in regulating individual Muslims’ private lives. The tendency of seeing harsh punishment as an effective means of weeding out vices and associating it with the seriousness of the state in enforcing Islamic belief leads to the loss of a sense of jurisprudential proportionality, and a zero-sum-game mentality vis-à-vis the respect for human dignity and liberty for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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