Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 28, 2004

Malaysia: Limitations of the Human Rights Discourse and the Deployment of Rights in a Religious Identity Debate

Nazish Ansari

Articulating the possible limits or shortcomings of the international human rights movement, David Kennedy highlights the fact that Human Rights discourses distract attention away from the economic realm and towards a re-entrenchment of the individual's relationship with the state and the negotiation of political and procedural rights. Even in a country like Malaysia that is credited as an economic and development miracle, the human rights discourse has distracted attention away from the underlying problems of ethnic and economic stratification and directed energy and resources towards the realization of personal and political "Rights" that will not be capable of being exercised in a meaningful way without economic redistribution. Furthermore, the Human Rights discourse has been transplanted in the context of a religious identity debate, which has both shaped and limited its discursive boundaries, as well as its ability to articulate and realize demands. The combination of the limitations of Human Rights discourse with its operation within the religious identity debate has meant that the liberal reformers in Malaysia have been severely limited in their ability to implement meaningful changes. Consideration of the women's rights movement in Malaysia aptly demonstrates that way that rights discourses have compromised the success of liberal reformers.

Published Online: 2004-10-28

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