Since the last elections in November 2022, the likelihood of conflict between Malaysia’s royal houses and the Islamic political party, PAS, has been growing and may indicate where Islam in the country is heading (Channel News Asia, 7 April 2023).
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller comments: “The nine royal houses of Malaysia have traditionally stayed out of politics (despite acting as nominal national leaders in a rotating system). Their role has been seen far more in protecting Islam in the country. However, PAS may cause this to change. Especially in states in which they are ruling, PAS has defied royal decrees by declaring that Muslims are not allowed to participate in non-Islamic festivals, not permitted to even enter a church, but may spread political messages in Friday sermons at mosques. It remains to be seen if and for how long the royal houses will stay silent on these matters, and whether PAS will dare to challenge their position if they do speak up.”
Thomas Muller adds: “On the subject of Islam, the question of ‘unilateral conversion’ illustrates the important role states play in the federation of Malaysia. (Unilateral conversion to Islam is when the conversion of a parent to Islam automatically changes the religion of the parent’s child to Islam). A decision on this matter has not yet been decided, despite a clear ruling by the federal court. According to specialized lawyers, state laws which contradict this ruling are not automatically made invalid, but must be legally challenged in individual cases (Malay Mail, 23 March 2023). It seems likely, therefore, that the struggle for converts and their families will continue for years to come.”