UPDATED: Tamir Moustafa, Simon Fraser University

Liberal Rights vs. Shariah in Malaysian Political Discourse

Thu, 03/08/2012
4:30 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 
Princeton University Community: Faculty, Fellows, Students, Staff

Please join us for a Workshop discussion of "Liberal Rights vs. Shariah in Malaysian Political Discourse," presented by Tamir Moustafa, Associate Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University, Canada. The commentator is David Leheny, Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton.

We ask that participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance.  The paper is available here:

Workshop paper (password required)

Optional reading (password required) : a forthcoming piece in Law and Social Inquiry containing additional context from Professor Moustafa’s project, including a brief primer on Islamic law and a more elaborate description of how Islamic law was institutionalized in Malaysia.

Please contact jrivkin@princeton.edu to request access.

Abstract:  "This paper traces the social construction of shariah vs. liberal rights discourse in Malaysia by examining a series of particularly controversial court cases, each of which pitted the shariah courts against the civil courts over the last decade.  Each of the cases -- dealing with issues of religious conversion, divorce, and child custody -- was significant in a legal sense, but their greatest collective impact was on political discourse.  The cases generated a tremendous volume of media coverage far beyond the courtroom and they became the focal point for public debate around the appropriate place for Islam, the secular vs. religious foundations of the state, the rights of non-Muslim communities, individual vs. collective rights in Islam, and the nature of religious authority in Islam.  The paper examines how rights activists mobilized on opposite sides of these cases to construct a series of oppositional binaries in public legal consciousness."

Tamir Moustafa is Associate Professor of International Studies and Stephen Jarislowsky Chair at Simon Fraser University. Prior to coming to SFU, Moustafa taught at the University of Wisconsin as well as Princeton University and U.C. Berkeley, where he held post-doctoral fellowships. His research stands at the intersection of comparative law and courts, religion and politics, and state-society relations, all with a regional focus on the Middle East. Moustafa’s first major project focused on the politics of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, the most important experiment in constitutionalism in the Arab World to date. This project culminated in the publication of The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 2008, with Tom Ginsburg).  Moustafa’s current project explores the public debates that are generated as a result of dual constitutional commitments to Islamic law and liberal rights in Egypt and Malaysia.

David Leheny is the Henry Wendt III '55 Professor of East Asian Studies. Trained as a political scientist, Leheny taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1998 until 2007. Before that, he served as a research associate (joshu) in the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo. Under the auspices of the International Affairs Fellowship from the Council in Foreign Relations, he served for most of 2000 as Regional Affairs Officer in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State. He is the author of two books, both published by Cornell University Press. Think Global, Fear Local: Sex, Violence, and Anxiety, published in 2006, examines how two different norms involving security and policing became useful for political elites interested in expanding the coercive authority of the state. His previous book, The Rules of Play: National Identity and the Shaping of Japanese Leisure (2003), investigated Japanese leisure and tourism policies in the 20th century, demonstrating how they were shaped not only by changing industrial policy formulations but also by long-term constructions of Japan as an advanced industrial nation like any other, and yet as culturally unique.