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Intimating the SacredReligion in English Language Malaysian Fiction$
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Andrew Hock Soon Ng

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9789888083213

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888083213.001.0001

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Islam and Modernity in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction by Malay Writers

Islam and Modernity in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction by Malay Writers

(p.193) 5 Islam and Modernity in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction by Malay Writers
Intimating the Sacred

Andrew Hock Soon Ng

Hong Kong University Press

Islam and modernity remain uncomfortable bedfellows, and Malaysia's claim to be a modern Islamic state is vexed precisely by such an unnatural alliance. The fault-lines embedded in the socio-cultural fabric of Malaysia's Malay-Muslim peoples that result from this problematic relationship is explored in several contemporary Anglophone Malay writers, two of whom, along with their short-stories, are the focus of this last chapter: Che Husna Azhari's “Mariah”, and Karim Raslan's “Neighbours”. While both stories deploy irony, this chapter argues that “Mariah” is a more successful narrative because of its nuanced treatment of polygamy that is at once biting, ambiguous and humorous. Karim's indirect attempt to discuss homosexuality is less convincing because, as if performing narrative bad faith, he retreats from confronting the issue altogether by transferring sin onto another character, whose deficiency is merely her propensity towards being a busybody. Both stories reveal, in the end, the difficulty in negotiating between Islam and modernity, especially when they crisscross at the most difficult to manage site of all: the sexualized body.

Keywords:   Islam, modernity, Malaysia, Malay-Muslim, Che Husna Azhari, Mariah, Karim Raslan, neighbours, homosexuality

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