n Journal for Islamic Studies - Negotiating Islamism : the experiences of the Muslim youth movement of Malaysia

Volume 29, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0257-7062



In Malaysia, where Islam is greatly politicised, Islamic NGOs are faced with the challenge of how to expand in size and reach without forfeiting their goals of non-partisan politics. This paper discusses how one NGO, the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM), meets this challenge. Formed in 1972, ABIM has been able to claim space in the public sphere to accomplish two major things. The first is the critical assessment of the Malaysian government's performance over issues of secularisation. The second is the socialisation of Malay youths into understanding Islam as a religion and a culture that values life-long learning, critical attitude, and unity of thought achieved through schools, seminars and study circles. In the mid-1980s, it dawned upon ABIM that it might slide into obscurity if it continued to adopt an oppositional stance at a time when the economy was booming and the state had committed itself to promoting Islam. So ABIM adjusted to political currents in Malaysia by embracing developmentalism, marshalling its organising efforts for resource enhancement and adopting a 'participative approach' when dealing with the state. By doing so, ABIM became financially strong, avoided being involved in patronage politics and was still able to function as a system of checks and balances to the powers of the authorities.

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