Liberal Rights versus Islamic Law? The Construction of a Binary in Malaysian Politics

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
Final version published as: 

“Liberal Rights versus Islamic Law?  The Construction of a Binary in Malaysian Politics” Law & Society Review, vol. 47 (2013) 771-802.

Date created: 
2013
Keywords: 
Islamic law
Liberal rights
Constitutionalism
Islam
Religion
Malaysia
Legal consciousness
Abstract: 

Why are liberal rights and Islamic law understood in binary and exclusivist terms at some moments, but not others? In this study, I trace when, why, and how an Islamic law versus liberal rights binary emerged in Malaysian political discourse and popular legal consciousness. I find that Malaysian legal institutions were hardwired to produce vexing legal questions, which competing groups of activists transformed into compelling narratives of injustice. By tracing the development of this spectacle in the courtroom and beyond, I show how the dueling binaries of liberal rights versus Islamic law, individual rights versus collective rights, and secularism versus religion were contingent on institutional design and political agency, rather than irreconcilable tensions between liberal rights and the Islamic legal tradition in some intrinsic sense. More broadly, the research contributes to our understanding of how popular legal consciousness is shaped by legal mobilization and countermobilization beyond the court of law.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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