Do Malaysians support Hadi’s RUU355?

Sebastian Loh, Malaysia Impact

Malaysian liberals are going ballistic against proponents of Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill (popularly known as RUU355), which strengthens the sentencing powers of the Syariah courts. The bill’s supporters have been slammed as theocrats and Islamofascists. They have been portrayed as a few out-of-touch, power-hungry men who wish to impose their views on the rest of Malaysians.

But while these stereotypes may be emotionally satisfying to Malaysia’s secular activists, they bear little relation to reality. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 52% of Malaysians – Muslim and non-Muslim – want the country’s laws to strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. A further 17% want the laws to follow the values and principles of Islam, but not strictly follow the Quran.

This is largely in line with an earlier Pew Research Center survey in 2013, which revealed that 86% of Malaysian Muslims favor making Syariah law the official law of the land. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the religion-state separation that liberals dream of. I wonder if liberals would describe all these people – the 86% in the survey – as Islamofascists.

Indeed, are liberals more in touch with the Malaysian people, or are RUU355 supporters? I’m highly confident that any poll on RUU355 (there isn’t one yet, as far as I know) would find a strong majority in favor of it.

Given that, it’s odd that liberals have taken to simultaneously condemning the RUU355 bill while urging MPs to do their job and speak for the people. MPs would be doing exactly that if they voted in favor of the bill. I suspect even opposition politicians know this – perhaps that’s why, aside from DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim, none of them attended the rally against the bill on February 18th.