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The Muslim organization Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement was officially registered on 1’7 August 1972 in Selangor state, after operating as a loose forum of concerned Muslim activists from 1969 to 1971. Its major objectives, as contained in its Articles of Association, were as follows: to establish and propagate Islamic tenets and principles as enshrined in the Qur’an and the sunnah; to spread and defend, in a progressive manner, the Islamic message, in particular its universalistic dimension; and to mobilize Muslim youth to collaborative endeavors in all fields, including the economy, society, education, culture, and technology.

The man most instrumental in the establishment of ABIM was Anwar Ibrahim. Born in Bukit Mertajam in Penangstate, Anwar was an active student leader while studying at the Universiti Malaya from 1968 to 1971. In 1968 he was president of both the National Association of Muslim Students and the Muslim Students Association of Universiti Malaya; in 1969 he became president of the Malay Language Society at the university. He held these appointments until 1970/1971.

While a student leader, Anwar and his group were often very critical of government policies, particularly on the role of the Malay language, and other policies regarded as prejudicial to Malay (bumiputra) interests. At that time, Anwar supported Malay nationalist figures such as Dr. Mahathir Mohamed in their criticisms of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, whose leadership style and policies were said to be responsible for the worsening plight of the Malays. The Tunku was also blamed for the racial riots on 13 May 1969, which pitted the Malays against the Chinese. When Anwar and his activist friends were about to graduate from the university, they realized the need to form an association to enable them to continue their Islamic activities. Hence ABIM came into being in 1972, and Anwar became its first secretary-general. He later assumed the presidency of the movement in 1974.

Helping him to establish ABIM were Kamaruddin Mohammad Nor, who later became one of ABIM’s vice presidents and the official representative of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY); Ahmad Hajj Ismail, a secretary in the Defense Ministry; Fauzi Abdul Rahman, the parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Information; and Zakaria Hashim, a successful businessman. At the time of its formation, ABIM had only forty members; in 1992, the membership reached more than fifty thousand nationwide. In its first decade of existence, a large proportion of the members were schoolteachers and university students. Today, many are also executives in both the government and private sectors. Although the president is significant in projecting the image of the movement, ABIM’s leadership is known to operate under the Islamic principle of shura (consultation) in its decision-making process.

ABIM’s relationship with the government has undergone change over the years. In the first decade of its existence, the relationship was tense: Anwar was arrested without trial under the Internal Security Act in 1974 on the charge of instigating Malay farmers against the government; in turn, ABIM criticized the government openly on issues such as corruption, abuse of power, and exploitation of workers, and called upon the authorities to abolish the Internal Security Act, which ABIM regarded as “repugnant to the Islamic spirit.” ABIM also charged that the nationalist-secularist orientation of the government would never solve the nationbuilding problems of multiracialMalaysia; only an “Islamic solution” would do so. However, since Anwar was coopted by the UMNO (United Malays National Organization) party a year after Mahathir Mohamed became prime minister in 198i, the government seems to have somewhat tolerated ABIM’s many criticisms and has accommodated some of its demands and representations.

Anwar’s successors continue the foundations and philosophical orientations set by him. Siddiq Fadhil, who assumed the presidency of the movement from Anwar, was a former neighbor whom Anwar had invited to join ABIM. Lacking the charisma of Anwar, Siddiq compensated that by his deeper knowledge of Islam and the Arabic language, amply demonstrated by his frequent quotations from the Qur’an and the sunnah. Siddiq vacated the position in August 1991 on the occasion of ABIM’s twentieth convention (Muktamar Sanawi) inKuala Lumpur. Having been Anwar’s deputy for many years prior to his elevation as president in 1983, Siddiq had served ABIM longer than Anwar. His wife Zulaikha was also, during his term as president, the head of ABIM’s women’s wing.

Since 1991 ABIM’s fourth president has been Dr. Muhammad Nur Manuty. Dr. Manuty received his early Islamic education in Perak state before becoming a staff member of the National University of Malaysia in 1970. He continued his postgraduate education at Temple Universityin Philadelphia, where he met the renowned Muslim scholar Isma’il Raja al-Farfiqi. He secured his Ph. D degree from Templein the field of contemporary Islamic thought and movements and began teaching at the International Islamic University inPetaling   Jaya,Malaysia. Dr. Manuty began his active involvement in ABIM in 1978, when he was appointed assistant secretary-general, and later was vice president for international relations from 1989 to 1991.

As previously, Manuty’s leadership is characterized by the policy of maintaining close relations with Muslim organizations and movements overseas. In 198o ABIM had established formal relations with twenty-four international Muslim groups, especially with nongovernmental Muslim bodies such as the Jama’at-i Islami in the Indian subcontinent, the Ikhwan al-Muslimin in the Gulf region, and the Muhammadiyah organization in Indonesia; by 1993 the number of bodies had reached more than thirty-five. Locally, ABIM’s dealings with other Muslim da’hwah (Al- da’wah; Islamic propagation) organizations are cordial. While the movement does not seem to approve of the propagation methods of movements like PERKIM and Dar ul Arqam, it often collaborates with them, for example with Perkim in recruiting non-Malay converts to Islam. [See Dar ul Arqam; Muhammadiyah; PERKIM.]

ABIM’s role in Malaysian life is considerable. First, it has on many occasions acted as the voice or conscience of Muslims in Malaysiain matters affecting Islam and the Muslim community. Second, with its systematic and comprehensive approach to Islamic propagation, the movement has educated many Malaysian Muslims about the relevance and efficacy of the Islamic faith in confronting the perennial problems faced by an increasingly open and modern Malaysia. Third, among all contemporary Muslim bodies and groups in the country, ABIM is the most organized force, instrumental in the birth of Islamic revivalism inMalaysiasince the late 1970s. Finally, because many ABIM activists continue to occupy key leadership positions in the religious, social, educational, and political arenas, the movement has not only access to the decision-making channels of government and the bureaucracy, but also the ability to affect policy directions as well as the intensification of the Islamic ethos in the country. With the recent elevation of Anwar Ibrahim as the deputy prime minister of Malaysia (and deputy president of the UMNO party), it now remains to be seen whether or not such an active role of ABIM in Malaysian society will increase further.

[See also Da’wah, article on Modern Usage;Malaysia; and the biography of Ibrahim.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chandra Muzaffar. Islamic Resurgence inMalaysia.Petaling Jaya,Malaysia, 1987. Insightful interpretation that links the dakwah phenomenon to the wider sociopolitical context of Malaysian politics. Hussin Mutalib. Islam and Ethnicity in Malay Politics.New YorkandSingapore, 1990. The most comprehensive treatment of Malay politics inMalaysiapost-1980, as well as a detailed examination of the dialectical relationship between Islam and Malay nationalist sentiment. Hussin Mutalib. Islam inMalaysia: From Revivalism to Islamic State?Singapore, 1993. An original and probing study of the feasibility of Malaysia becoming an Islamic state in the future.

Nagata, Judith. The Reflowering of Malaysian Islam: Modern Religious Radicals and Their Roots.Vancouver, B.C., 1984. One of the earliest penetrating studies about the sources of the contemporary dakwah phenomenon inMalaysia, approached primarily from a sociological-anthropological perspective.

Zainah Anwar. Islamic Revivalism inMalaysia: Dakwah among the Students.Kuala Lumpur, 1987. Revealing study of the role of Muslim students in the regeneration of the Islamic ethos inMalaysia.

HUSSIN MUTALIB

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/abim/
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  • writerPosted On: October 5, 2012
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