Going to Hell or Heaven? An Analysis of Malaysian Muslims’ Perspectives on Extremism in Religion
Religion has long been the focus of research looking into terrorism
and extremism. However, previous researches tend to focus heavily on terrorist
and extremist groups who have committed acts of terrorism. This study further
expands the literature by analysing how the public perceive extreme elements in
their daily religious routines in a multicultural society in Malaysia, employing
four dimensions of religiosity, namely, physical, social, cognitive, and spiritual.
This research utilised a survey method and distributed it to 497 Malay Malaysian
Muslims in 2019. Using descriptive statistical analysis, it was found that there
is a tendency for Malaysian Muslims to be more perceptive towards religious
extremism, as the majority of the sampling population showed strong support
towards the visible aspects of religiosity indicators, such as strict adherence to
religious dress code and physical rituals that can be managed and administered
through the establishment of a legal institution and can reinforce their status
quo as the majority group in society, rather than intangible aspects of extreme
religiosity, such as cognitive and spiritual aspects. However, this study also
found that extreme religiosity in religious practices is not necessarily an indicator for society to support extremist religious ideologies, as the Malaysian
Muslims also showed positive tendencies of living in a multi-faith society.
This finding provides insights into how the prevention of religious extremism
should address social elements of religiosity and should not be taken care
of in isolation, as well as should consider the complex historical and social
dimensions of society. As such, this paper contributes to the understanding of
Malaysian Muslims’ perceptions of religious extremism in their daily religious
practices in a multicultural society.