Malaysia’s Muslims – the First World Values Survey
Eduard J. Bomhoff
In the Islamic world, Malaysia is a happy outlier: richer and politically more mature than the average of the 58 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. That makes it interesting to test theories of modernization for this prosperous Islamic country. In our analysis of the first World Values Survey in Malaysia, we look at questions in the following four areas: 1. Tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, divorce, euthanasia and suicide. 2. Acceptance of the ideology of the economic market. 3. Equality between men and women. 4. Esteem for democracy. Responses on such questions show to what extent Malaysia is a “modern” country on the definition of Inglehart 2 . We provide context by comparing the results for Malaysia to currently available WVS data for all other Islamic nations as well as a comparator group of strongly Catholic countries. For the questions on tolerance of abortion etc., we find both in Islamic and in Catholic countries, that more religious people adhere to the traditional views of their religion. For the other three groups of questions, however, the association in most Islamic nations is strikingly different from the pattern in the Catholic countries: many of the strongly religious Muslim respondents exhibit openness to gender equality, and keenness for democracy and the laws of the market which are significantly greater than the average for their nation. We also find that the often-mentioned link between more education and a more “modern” outlook holds for the Catholic countries but is an inappropriate generalization for the Islamic world.
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