chapter  4
18 Pages

Islamic non-governmental organisations

WithSALIHA HASSAN

In its general management of democracy in the country, the Malaysian government remains wary of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that involve themselves with political issues or specifically advocate reviews of policy decisions and legal restrictions within the realm of civil and democratic rights. The regime’s trepidation extends to Islamic and/or Islamic-oriented NGOs (IONGOs), which appear to enjoy substantial grassroots goodwill among the Malay Muslim community that makes up about 45 per cent of Malaysia’s population. This attitude may be a legacy of the colonial days, when indigenous anti-colonial movements in the late nineteenth century that were led by religious figures usually had greater grassroots support than others led by displaced traditional elites. Examples of these earlier leaders are Haji Abdul Rahman Limbong, Lebai Hassan, Haji Zakaria and Tok Janggut in Terengganu and Kelantan. Religious leaders were often closer to the people than other feudal or administrative leaders, thus making them more effective in influencing the grassroots towards political actions, despite existing feudal political structures and values. In fact, the strength of their religious fervour made individuals bold and greatly committed to their cause.