The Gordian Knot of Ethno-Religious Nationalism: Unsettled National Questions and Contested Visions


religious nationalists
comparative study
United States of America

How to Cite

Rahim, L. Z. (2022). The Gordian Knot of Ethno-Religious Nationalism: Unsettled National Questions and Contested Visions. Muslim Politics Review, 1(1), 79-106.


The early twenty-first century has witnessed a rising number of global crises. These include climate change, widening income inequality, military and nuclear tensions between the major powers, repeated outbreaks of global pandemics, and an ongoing democratic recession. In particular, the deepening democratic recession has afflicted ostensibly both mature and newer democracies – contradicting theories of political development. In many countries, the political alliance between ethno- and religious nationalists has reignited assaults against democratic institutions, processes, and norms. This comparative country-case study, principally of Malaysia and the United States of America (US), explores the alliance between ethno- and religious nationalists by examining the forces and factors that have contributed to this combustible dynamic within the context of unsettled national questions, contested constitutional orders, and foundational national visions. Also examined are the narratives of fear, victimhood and privilege that have galvanised religious and ‘sons of the soil’ ethno-nationalists in resisting the building of inclusive multiracial democracies.


Akyol, Mustafa. 2021. Reopening Muslim minds: Return to reason and tolerance, (NY: St Martins).

Browers, Michaelle. 2009. Political ideology in the Arab world: Accommodation and transformation, (NY: Cambridge Uni. Press).

Faruqi, Shad Saleem. 2016. 'Shariah Laws, Civil Laws and the Federal Constitution', in G25 Malaysia, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation, (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish)

Fehrenbacher, Don. 2001. The Dred Scott Case: Its significance in American law and politics, (NY: OUP).

Funston, N.J. 2016. 'UMNO - From Hidup Melayu to Ketuanan Melayu', in Bridget Welsh (ed), The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia's dominant party, (PJ: SIRD).

Ghiat, Ruth Ben. 2020. Strongmen: Why they succeed and how they fall, (London: Profile Books).

Hashim, Suffian. 1962. The relationship between Islam and the state in Malaya, Intisari, Vol.1, No.1.

Hefner, Robert. 2000. Civil Islam: Muslims and democratization in Indonesia (Princeton: Princeton Uni. Press).

Kalyvas, Stathis N. 1996. The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press).

Karima, Bennoune. 2017. 'UN Expert Embarks on Malaysia Mission to Assess Cultural Rights', United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, Available at <>

Kuru, Ahmet T. 2009. Secularism and state policies toward religion, (NY: Cambridge Uni. Press).

Liow, Joseph Chinyong. Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia (NY: Cambridge University Press).

Mahoney, James. 2001. The legacies of liberalism: Path dependence and political regimes in Central America, (NY: Johns Hopkins Press).

Mandaville, Peter. (ed). 2002. Wahhabism and the world: Understanding Saudi Arabia's global influence on Islam, (NY: Oxford Uni. Press).

Michels, Robert. 1999. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, (London: Routledge).

Mohamad, Maznah. 2020. The divine bureaucracy and disenchantment of social life (Singapore: PalgraveMacmillan).

Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. 2001. The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power, (NY: Oxford Uni Press).

Ng, Stephen, and Hwa Beng Lee. 2019. Where Is Pastor Raymond Koh? (Petaling Jaya: Semai Maju Sdn Bhd).

Przeworski, Adam, and John Sprague. 1998. Paper Stones: A History of Electoral Socialism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press).

Rahim, Lily Z. (ed). 2013. Muslim secular democracy: Voices from within (NY: Palgrave Macmillan).

Rahim, Lily Z. 1998/2011. The Singapore Dilemma: The political and educational marginality of the Malay Community (KL: Oxford Uni. Press).

Sloane-White, Patricia. 2017. Corporate Islam: Sharia and the modern workplace, (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Soper, J., and J. Fetzer. 2018. Religion and nationalism in global perspective, (NY: Cambridge Uni. Press).

Stewart, Katherine. 2020. The power worshippers: Inside the dangerous rise of religious nationalism, (NY: Bloomsbury).

Tharoor, Shashi. 2021. The struggle for India's Soul (London: Hurst & Company).

Walter. Barbara. 2002. How civil wars start and how to stop them (UK: Penguin Random House).

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Download data is not yet available.