Islamic Social Contract


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This circumstance does not apply in Sarawak as all racial groups were citizens, bestowed by the legitimate Brooke government , way before the founding of Malaysia. In its typical context related to race relations , the social contract has been heavily criticised by many, including politicians from the Barisan Nasional coalition, who contend that constant harping on the non-Malays' debt to the Malays for citizenship has alienated them from the country.

Renegotiating Iran's Post-Revolutionary Social Contract

The Constitution does not explicitly refer to a "social contract" in terms of citizenship rights and privileges , and no act of law or document has ever fully set out the social contract's terms. This was created by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad in as a political ploy to win communal support.


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Its defenders often refer to the Constitution as setting out the social contract, and the Malaysian founding fathers having agreed to it, although no reference to a "social contract" appears in the Constitution. Instead, the social contract is typically taken to mean a quid pro quo agreement that provides the non-Malay and other non-indigenous peoples of Malaysia mostly the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indians with citizenship, in return for recognising the special position of the Malays and indigenous people of Malaysia, collectively referred to as the Bumiputra "sons of the soil".

A higher education Malaysian studies textbook conforming to the government syllabus states: "Since the Malay leaders agreed to relax the conditions for citizenship, the leaders of the Chinese and Indian communities accepted the special position of the Malays as indigenous people of Malaya. With the establishment of Malaysia, the special position status was extended to include the indigenous communities of Sabah and Sarawak. Another description of the social contract declares it to be an agreement that "Malay entitlement to political and administrative authority should be accepted unchallenged, at least for the time being, in return for non-interference in Chinese control of the economy".

The Constitution explicitly grants the Bumiputra reservations of land, quotas in the civil service, public scholarships and public education , quotas for trade licences, and the permission to monopolise certain industries if the government permits. The Constitution also included elements of Malay tradition as part of the Malaysian national identity.

The Malay rulers were preserved, with the head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong , drawn from their ranks. Islam would be the national religion, and the Malay language would be the national language. These provisions, along with the economic privileges accorded by Article of the Constitution , made up one half of the bargain, and have been referred to as the Malay Agenda.

The nature of these provisions is disputed; although many Malays refer to them as "rights" — a term common in UMNO rhetoric — critics have argued that the Constitution never refers to special rights for the Malays:. There is no such thing as a racial "right" to be given special treatment. And that is not me being argumentative, it's the Constitution. You won't find "Malay rights" in the supreme law of our land, instead, you will find terms such as "special position" of Malays.

The difference is more than semantics. A right implies something inalienable. A privilege on the other hand is a benefit, presumably given to those who need it.

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The Islamic and Western social contracts

Such critics have used this basis to argue that the social contract was meant "to protect the Malays from being overwhelmed economically, administratively and politically from the immigrant ethnic groups of the time", instead of granting particular special rights to the Malays. Some suggest that this bias towards Malays in education and politics is, in part, a response to the ability of the Malaysian Chinese to secure most of the country's wealth.

The Indian Malaysians, as with the Indian Singaporeans, can make a case for being those that lose out the most, although this may be disputed. The government did roll back the quota system for entry to public universities in and introduced a policy of " meritocracy ". However, this new system was widely criticised by the non-Bumiputras as benefiting the Bumiputras by streaming them into a matriculation programme that featured relatively easy coursework while the non-Bumiputras were forced to sit for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia STPM, or Malaysia Higher School Certificate.

Although in theory non-Bumiputras may enter the matriculation stream, and Bumiputras may sit for the STPM, this rarely occurs in reality. Meritocracy was also criticised by some quarters in UMNO as being discriminatory, as it caused the rural and less-prepared Malays to fall behind in university entrance rates. The Commission also said that the article and its provisions would only be necessary to avoid sudden unfair disadvantage to the Malays in competing with other members of Malaysian society, and that the privileges accorded the Malays by the article should be gradually reduced and eventually eliminated.

Due to the 13 May Incident, after which a state of emergency was declared, however, , the year that Article was due to be reviewed, passed without incident. According to the social contract's proponents, in return for the enactment of these originally temporary provisions, non-Malay Malaysians are accorded citizenship under Chapter 1 of Part III of the Constitution. Except for the Bumiputra privileges, non-Bumiputras are otherwise generally regarded as equal to their Bumiputra counterparts, and are accorded all the rights of citizenship as under Part II of the Constitution. In recent years, some have sought to provide Malay citizens with more political rights as per the ketuanan Melayu philosophy.


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However, most of these ketuanan Melayu proponents argue that their additional rights are already written as law and thus only seek to "defend" them from their opponents. They also indicate that they owe their loyalty to their countries of origin, and for that reason they oppose the Barnes Report to make Malay the national language. If we were to hand over the Malays to these so-called Malayans when their nationality has not been defined there will be a lot of problems ahead of us.

They must truly be Malayans, and they will have the same rights and privileges as the Malays. Article , and thus by extension the social contract, has been a source of controversy since the early days of Malaysia. Singaporean politician Lee Kuan Yew of the PAP publicly questioned the need for Article in Parliament , and called for a " Malaysian Malaysia " pointing out that if Dato' Syed Ja'afar Albar , an UMNO stalwart who came to Malaya from Indonesia just before the war at the age of more than thirty, could claim to be Malaysian then so should those non-Malays whose families had been born and bred in Malaysia for generations.

Lee criticised the government's policies by stating that "[t]hey, the Malay, have the right as Malaysian citizens to go up to the level of training and education that the more competitive societies, the non-Malay society, has produced. That is what must be done, isn't it? Not to feed them with this obscurantist doctrine that all they have got to do is to get Malay rights for the few special Malays and their problem has been resolved. To Malaysians.

Islamic Social Contract : Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi :

But who are Malaysians? I hope I am, Mr Speaker, Sir. But sometimes, sitting in this chamber, I doubt whether I am allowed to be a Malaysian. Lee's statements upset many, especially politicians from the Alliance, Barisan Nasional's predecessor. Eventually, the Tunku decided to kick Singapore out of Malaysia. Lee was sincerely saddened by this and shed tears in an emotional interview on national television as Singapore became an independent nation in The Constitution of Singapore contains an article, Article , that names the Malays as "indigenous people" of Singapore and therefore requiring special safeguarding of their rights and privileges as such.

However, the article specifies no policies for such safeguarding, and no reference to a "social contract" has ever been made by the PAP government in Singapore. Lim, a Minister in the government, asked for a re-examination of the social contract so that a " Bangsa Malaysia " literally Malay for a Malaysian race or Malaysian nation could be achieved. The Malay press most of which is owned by UMNO also ran articles condemning the questioning of the social contract. Lim was adamant, asking in an interview "How do you expect non-Malays to pour their hearts and souls into the country, and to one day die for it if you keep harping on this?

Flag-waving and singing the Negaraku the national anthem are rituals, while true love for the nation lies in the heart. A year earlier, Abdullah had given a speech where he mentioned the most "significant aspect" of the social contract as "the agreement by the indigenous peoples to grant citizenship to the immigrant Chinese and Indians". Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it serves as a powerful explanation of the sectarian violence that has steadily engulfed Pakistan since the creation of the state.

Nevertheless, a few clarifications are in order. This ambiguity, Devji suggests, has been amplified by a concern to anchor national claims in a supra-national agenda—in the case of Israel, the fate of world Jewry; in the case of Pakistan, the future of pan-Islamism.

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It has already received attention in the ground-breaking work of Aamir Mufti and his attempt to frame the crisis of Muslim identity in late colonial India in the light of debates on the assimilation and emancipation of the Jewish minority in post-Enlightenment Europe. Like Mufti, Devji is engaged by the choices made by Jewish and Muslim minority intellectuals forced to confront the implications of a liberal-democratic order that presupposed rule by national majorities. And like Mufti, Devji is also concerned to explore how both Muslims and Jews in India and Europe, respectively, resisted not only their standing as a minority but also their status as pariahs.

While it is true that Muslim nationalism was inspired neither by claims to ancestral Muslim lands nor reference to common biological descent, both were indisputably key features in the construction of Jewish nationalism. This oversight raises further questions about drawing parallels between two states with putative Zionist identities in which one would expressly endorse the claim of every member of world Jewry to claim citizenship of the state of Israel while the other would deny as it does to Muslims in India, to say nothing of the global Muslim diaspora, any such prospect in the state of Pakistan.

This is not to say that Muslim nationalism in British India did not galvanise Dalit politics, as is made abundantly clear by Devji in his analysis of the close if convoluted relationship between the Dalit leader, B. Ambedkar and Jinnah. Rather, it is to question whether the identity politics of caste, such as outlined here, helps furnish the tools to refine our understanding of Muslim nationalism as an expression of Zionism. Nevertheless, there remains the risk of over-working these parallels and obscuring in the process the significance of Dalit politics as arguably no more than a field of opportunity for Muslim nationalists to press their case.

It was Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress and a staunch opponent of the Muslim nationalist agenda, who famously declared that in order for Muslims in India to claim nationhood they had first to reject the historical past they shared with other communities in India.

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What emerges from this is a fresh understanding of Pakistan as an idea that transcended the limits of the colonial state to play out on a larger international stage—another example, one might say, of the Zionist paradox that would internationalise the nation. His many speeches and statements serve as ample proof that it was not so much the discourse of history, but the language of law that animated his politics.

It would seem not. These circumstances precluding any idea of the nation couched in the language of territorial and historical integrity also favoured an anti-territorial view of the Muslim nation and national sovereignty.


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  6. But their adoption also produced a certain distorted logic. In doing so, both projected a vision that was as radical and fantastical in its politics as any revolutionary ideal heralding the onset of a new era—a Year One—purged of the past and its memory. Instead what Devji offers us is a breath-taking vista—a vista as much of the past as the future of Pakistan.

    And it is precisely this keen eye to the future of Pakistan combined with a profound consciousness of the ambiguity of its nationalist past that makes Devji one of the finest chroniclers of this troubled country.

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