After years of local, public education, I thought I knew Malaysia- but through this book, I am forced to admit that there is so much more that I did not know. (This is a compliment to a book, as books are supposed to make one think!) The context of the Constitution, the politics that make (or break) this country of ours, & the Islamization/Arabization that has been occurring are articulately and academically discussed through the many chapters of this book. Be ready to have your own copy of The Federal Constitution of Malaysia (RM17.90) as a side reference as most of the discourse requires a reference to the document. The book as a whole provided a factual discourse between what was written and envisioned during the formation of Malaysia, with current lived realities. I have to admit that Part I felt a bit repetitious for me, as most of the arguments are similar and and the same cases are cited in all chapters. It is also the biggest chunk of the book- rightly so as the objectives of G25 is to have a legal discourse on shariah laws within a constitutional democracy. As a non-lawyer, however, I found some parts a bit too technical but appreciate the elaborate attempts to convey the legal discourse to the general public such as myself. I am more inclined and incited by Parts II and III whereby sociopolitical commentaries were made.
General Comments: The Orang Asli seems to have been omitted (yet again) by another publication and discourse on this country called Malaysia. If I understand correctly, no provisions were given to the Orang Asli (i.e. not considered Bumiputeras). It would have been a bonus to have such discourse/writings from them or one who has done anthropological research on their lived realities/culture and their assimilation or lack thereof within an increasingly Islamic Malaysia.
It was also not made clear if Bumiputera status is automatically awarded to converts; as the discourse "masuk Melayu" was mentioned a few times in the book. Could this have been a motivation to not only increase the numbers of constitutional Malays in the country but also Islamic leanings in all aspects of Malaysian life?
What was clear though was there was/is a silent rewriting of the constitution and there is a restrictive view on Islam itself in Malaysia. Sadly, this view do not align with the universal, just & compassionate values that followers of the religion should profess.
Some editing comments: There are a number of typos (true of any publications!) and I would have personally preferred for footnotes to be separated from references, and for footnotes to be presented at the bottom of the page wherein the footnote is required. This would reduce the need to flip through the pages and provide a more undisturbed flow of reading.
I wish that more Malaysians will read this book, particularly our political leaders. I wish that everyone who read this book would be inclined to be included as whom the book is dedicated to. I wish that students and the next generation of Malaysians would read, digest, and be inspired by this publication to work towards a progressive, just, and inclusive Malaysia. At the very least, I hope that understanding the Federal Constitution, The Malaysian Agreement, and the Rukun Negara are included and made compulsory in History subjects from now on at all school levels. (Not just memorising but allowed to discuss and compare/debate with current realities!)
Questions on next steps:
1) Would this book receive audience among "against"-English language parties; necessitating a transliteration into Bahasa Malaysia?
2) Would parties whose ambitions is to "harmonise" shariah laws with Malaysia's civil, secular Laws be privy of this book?
3) Would this book even reach the hands of many Malaysians - given that we are a society of non-readers?
I remain a naïve optimist, and hope that more would pick this up.
p/s: Also love the cover design!