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SINGAPORE — In Malaysia’s current political climate, it is no longer possible to distinguish Islamic radicals from Islamic moderates. Despite official boasting about the country’s diverse population and commitment to pluralism, Islam and the government have essentially merged.

For two decades, the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) government invested enormous public resources in building up a network of Islamic institutions. The government’s initial intention was to deflect radical demands for an extreme version of Islamic governance. Over time, however, the effort to outdo its critics led UMNO to over-Islamicize the state.

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