Malaysia's nation's independence and its Constitution are grounded upon the political bargaining process and ensuing "social contract" that made them possible. Yet two major questions central to the "Merdeka process" persist.
First, what exactly were the terms, and what is now the current standing and force, of that social contract? Still blurred and ill-understood after fifty years of national independence, the answer to this question remain central to the life of the nation.
Second, under the independece Constitution that rests upon what has become retrospectively known as the nation's "social contract", what specifically was the agreed constitutional position os Islam? What was the mutually accepted "religion and society status quo" that the Constitution, its framers and the parties consenting to its adoption sought to establish? Did those understandings establish Malaysia as an Islamic state or indirectly permit it to evolve into, or even encourage its development as ,as Islamic state? Or did they seek to preclude that direction of development?
Recent controversies now pose the question whether there has been any change in the nation's formative "social contract" and, if so, whether it has been openly negotiated and imposed?
These are fundamental questions that will not go away. They remain basic to the nature of the Malaysian state and citizenship in it. Thay cannot simply be wished away of finessed intu irrelevance.
These issues are addressed in this small collection if essays. Together they clalrifythe origins in political philosophy of the term "social contract", trace its largely unacknowledged modification as it was imported into and adapted to the Malaysian context, and explore the uses to which in its refashioned form it has been put in Malaysian politics.
About the Author
Norani Othman is Professor and Principal Research Fellow at IKMAS: The Institute of Malaysian and International Studies at UKM. She is the author and editor of many noted works including Shari'a Law and the Modern Nation-State:A Malaysian Symposium(1994).
Mavis Puthucheary is a senior Malaysian political scientist who was Associate Professor and taught politics and administration for many years at the Faculty of Economics and Administration at University of Malaya. She is the author of many works including The Politics of Administration:The Malaysian Experience(1978).
Clive S.Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He has been researching and writing about Malaysian society, culture, politics and religion for over forty years. He is the author of Islam and Politics in Malay State:Kelantan 1838-1969(1978).