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Malaysia’s Coming Out! Critical Cosmopolitans, Religious Politics and Democracy

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Abstract This paper explores the rise of new social movements in Malaysia in the past year, with special focus on the transformations in civil society and the changing face of politics in the country. Recently, proselytisation and LGBT rights have become deeply politicised as a result of a revival in public activism and mobilisation. Here, I examine the discourse surrounding these issues through analyses of NGO websites, press releases, news articles and other sources. The analyses reveal three emergent themes beginning with the fragmentation of Islamic authority following experiments with state Islamism, the cosmopolitanisation of a society in a post-Islamist phase and finally, the increasing public visibility of social and political movements. I argue that Malaysian society is experiencing a shift from traditional ethnic politics to more critical cosmopolitan struggles, highlighting the encounter with globalisation and heightened awareness within public consciousness of the visible presence of minority communities in society.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois


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