PETALING JAYA, March 24 — Malay-Muslims who felt that “liberalism” is bad are minorities in Malaysia, albeit vocal ones, think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said today.
Presenting the results of a national survey on Malaysians’ understanding of liberalism, the think-tank highlighted that only 29 per cent of Muslims polled thought the ideology is a bad concept.
IDEAS chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the main reason behind the public’s negative perception is that the ideology was perceived to be detrimental to religion, particularly Islam.
“The debate about liberalism happens mainly among the Malay-Muslim population, that’s the reason why I’m interested in what is the actual level of understanding about liberalism among that population.
“So despite the fact that the shouting comes mainly from the Malay-Muslim population, I think it will be misleading to assume that these loud voices represent the majority. They are the minority, they might be very vocal,” he said.
“[What] we have found is despite all the negative propaganda coming from government-funded agencies, despite all that, still it’s a minority who believe liberalism is bad,” he said, when it was highlighted to him that liberalism had been portrayed negatively in some Friday sermons to local Muslims.
In comparison, only 13 per cent of the non-Muslims surveyed said they felt liberalism is bad.
This made up the 269 people, or 22 per cent of the 1,207 total population polled, who felt liberalism is bad.
Wan Saiful highlighted that 20 per cent decided that liberalism is bad, despite saying in the same survey that they did not understand the ideology. Those who do not understand liberalism at all or do not understand much stood at 42 per cent and 34 per cent respectively of the 1,207 surveyed.
Only 20 per cent said they understood a fair amount about liberalism, while those who said they understood a great deal or were unsure stood at 3 and 2 per cent respectively.
Those opposing liberalism in the IDEAS-commissioned survey also claimed the ideology is not really suitable for Malaysia with its multiracial society or that it would be bad if there are no specific laws to control liberalism here.
Out of the 1,207 polled, 30 per cent or 357 of them said liberalism is a good concept, giving reasons such as the ability to obtain more rights to freedoms such as free speech and that the ideology would create a fair and equitable society.
Liberalism encompasses a wide array of ideas, but its supporters usually push for civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free trade, private property, and free and fair elections.
The survey was conducted by independent pollster Merdeka Center last December 16 to December 29, and saw 1,207 registered voters being interviewed through phone calls in the language of their own preference.
Out of the 1,207 polled through the randomised stratified sampling method for results reflecting Malaysia’s demographics, 58 per cent were Muslims.
The ethnic breakdown of those polled are 51 per cent Malays, 30 per cent Chinese, 7 per cent Indians; while the Bumiputera community from Sabah and Sarawak were composed of 6.5 per cent Muslims and 5.8 per cent non-Muslims.
Respondents from Sabah and Sarawak accounted for 7.8 per cent each and did not only include those who are natives, while the remaining 84.4 per cent are from peninsular Malaysia.
When asked about the east Malaysian Bumiputera respondents, Wan Saiful said the natives who were Muslims generally followed the views of the wider Muslim population surveyed.