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ABIM

By:
Hussin Mutalib, Meredith L. Weiss
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

ABIM

Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, ABIM) was officially registered on August 17, 1972, in Selangor state, after operating as a loose forum since 1969. Its major objectives, enumerated in its Articles of Association, were to establish and propagate Islamic tenets and principles as enshrined in the Qurʿān 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. Espousing principles of kesederhanaan (moderation) and gradualism, ABIM promotes an ideal of Islam as dīn, a comprehensive way of life.

The man most instrumental in the establishment of ABIM was Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar led the Muslim Students Association and Malay Language Society, as well as the National Association of Muslim Students, as a student at Universiti Malaya from 1968 to 1971. At the time, Anwar and his activist classmates were often critical of government policies, particularly those regarded as prejudicial to Malay interests. As they approached graduation, the students realized the need to form an association to enable them to continue their Islamic activities. Hence ABIM came into being in 1972. Anwar became its first secretary general (during the presidency of Razali Nawawi), then president in 1974.

Helping Anwar to establish ABIM were Kamaruddin Mohammad Nor, who later became an ABIM vice president and official representative to 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; by 2007, membership was around sixty thousand nationwide. In ABIM 's first decade of existence, a large proportion of the members were schoolteachers and university students. Today, many are in the government or are executives in the private sector. Although the president is significant in projecting the image of the movement, ABIM 's leadership operates under the Islamic principle of shūrā (consultation) in decision making. ABIM also supports a network of schools and training programs, a range of outreach initiatives, and various publications and economic ventures.

ABIM 's relationship with the government has fluctuated over the years. In ABIM 's first decade, the relationship was tense: ABIM criticized the government openly on issues such as corruption, abuse of power, and exploitation of workers, and it condemned the Internal Security Act as “repugnant to the Islamic spirit.” It was under this act that Anwar was detained without trial in 1974. ABIM also charged that the nationalist-secularist orientation of the government would never solve the nation-building problems of multiracial Malaysia; only an “Islamic solution” could. A stream of ABIM leaders went on to assume top roles in the opposition Malaysian Islamic Party (Partai Islam se Malaysia, PAS). Yet Anwar was co-opted into the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) a year after Mahathir Mohamed became prime minister in 1981; a number of supporters from ABIM followed him, while others who were disillusioned joined PAS instead. Anwar rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming deputy prime minister of Malaysia and deputy president of UMNO.

The government grew more tolerant and accommodating of ABIM 's criticisms and demands in the 1980s, particularly as Anwar helped direct a state-led program of Islamic reform. ABIM, in turn aligned itself more closely with the government 's own moderate, developmental stance and developed a robust political network. ABIM continued to voice concerns on Islamic grounds with aspects of Malaysian society and politics, and allied as well with a growing array of advocacy-oriented NGOs through the 1980s and 1990s on matters of civil liberties, social justice, and political corruption. With Anwar 's ouster from the government and party in 1998, ABIM, too, was pushed toward the opposition—especially to the People 's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) launched by Anwar 's wife though ABIM remained officially nonpartisan.

ABIM maintains close links with Muslim organizations and movements overseas; Muslim internationalism has always been core to ABIM 's identity and mission. By 1980, ABIM had established formal relations with twenty-four international Muslim groups, and with nongovernmental bodies such as the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī in the Indian subcontinent, the Ikhwān al-Muslimīn in the Gulf region, and the Muhammadiyah organization in Indonesia. Further affiliations followed. ABIM is also active in such regional bodies as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Youth Council. Locally, ABIM 's dealings with other Muslim dakwah (Ar., daʿwah, Islamic propagation) organizations are cordial and often collaborative, despite differences in approach and praxis, for instance in propagation methods or emphasis on ritual and dress (less significant to ABIM than to others). ABIM plays a key role, too, in the international humanitarian efforts of local NGOs, not least through its leadership of the nearly eighty-member Global Peace Mission.

Anwar 's successors continue the foundations and philosophical orientations set by him. Siddiq Fadhil, for instance, who assumed the presidency from Anwar (whom he had previously served for many years as deputy) in 1983, lacked Anwar 's charisma, but compensated for this with his deeper knowledge of Islam and the Arabic language. At the same time, his wife, Zulaikha, headed ABIM 's women's wing. Siddiq stepped down in 1991. The next president was Dr. Muhammad Nur Manuty, an International Islamic University (IIU) lecturer with a doctorate in contemporary Islamic thought and movements from Temple University in Philadelphia. He was succeeded by Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman, who served eight years, until 2005. The current president, ABIM 's sixth, not including a brief initial stint under founding president Abdul Wahab bin Abdullah, is Yusri Mohamad; he has a Masters of Law (LLM) degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London and a PhD in Islamic Jurisprudence from IIU.

ABIM 's role in Malaysian life is considerable. First, it represents the voice of conscience on matters affecting Islam and the Muslim community; it has been the most consistent and effective of Malaysian Muslim political organizations. Second, the movement has educated many Malaysian Muslims about the relevance and efficacy of the Islamic faith in confronting the problems faced by an increasingly open and modern Malaysia. Third, ABIM remains Malaysia 's largest and most organized Muslim organization, instrumental in the birth of Islamic revivalism nationwide since the late 1970s. Finally, the many ABIM activists in key religious, social, educational, and political leadership positions grant the movement access to key decision-makers and bureaucrats, especially on matters of Islam and Islamization. See also ANWAR IBRAHIM; DAKWAH; and MALAYSIA.

Bibliography

  • Anwar, Zainah. Islamic Revivalism in Malaysia: Dakwah among the Students. Kuala Lumpur, 1987.
  • Funston, John. “The Politics of Islamic Reassertion: Malaysia.” In Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia, edited by Ahmad Ibrahim, Sharon Siddique, and Yasmin Hussain. Singapore, 1985. See pp. 171–179.
  • Hassan, Saliha. “Islamic Non-governmental Organisations.” In Social Movements in Malaysia: From Moral Communities to NGOs, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. Surrey, U.K., 2003. See pp. 97–114.
  • "Islamist Civil Society in Malaysia Under Abdullah Badawi: The Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) and the Darul Arqam," Studia Islamika Vol. 16 No. 3, 2009, p 439.
  • Mutalib, Hussin. Islam and Ethnicity in Malay Politics. New York and Singapore, 1990.
  • Muzaffar, Chandra. Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 1987.
  • Nagata, Judith. The Reflowering of Malaysian Islam: Modern Religious Radicals and Their Roots. Vancouver, B.C., 1984.
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