The government is already under strain caused by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic crisis, as can be seen by the nomination of three prime ministers in the span of just two years. Now, the governing Islamic PAS Party is adding to that strain, as two recent incidents show.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: "The PAS had already made headlines when a PAS functionary congratulated the Taliban on their successful take-over of power in Kabul on 15 August 2021. Now, the government"s special envoy for the Middle East, PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, caused confusion when he met with a Taliban envoy
in Doha (Benar News, 8 February 2022). It was unclear whether this meeting was officially endorsed by the government and, if so, whether it should be seen as a step in officially recognizing the Taliban government. A few days later, the Deputy Minister for women, family and community development came under fire from opposition lawmakers and civil society when she claimed that men are allowed to use a "˜gentle but firm physical touch
" against recalcitrant wives (Benar News, 14 February 2022). In both instances, the government remained silent, showing the growing leeway PAS enjoys. Christians and other religious minorities are watching these developments closely, especially since PAS is known to be pushing for an increased Islamization of Malaysia, which became particularly evident when a PAS MP publicly referred to the Bible as a "˜distorted book
" without any sense of remorse (Malay Mail, 3 September 2020).
Thomas Muller adds: "On a more positive note, a nine-member bench of the Federal Court of Malaysia decided that according to the Constitution, Sharia courts do not have the right to exercise judicial reviews
(Malay Mail, 21 February 2022). This comes in a long-lasting dispute about the question whether Sharia law or Civil law should have precedence in Malaysia. Consequently, and not surprisingly, the Sharia Lawyers Association of Malaysia (PGSM) called for an amendment of the Constitution to allow for judicial reviews to be carried out by Sharia courts as well. Whether politicians heed these calls may be seen as a litmus test for where the country is heading."