The Broken Piggy Bank
Malaysia’s leaders have nurtured the state hajj agency, Tabung Haji, into an internationally applauded experiment to spur modern capitalism with the aid of traditional religious values. Pilgrimage not only fosters economic development, it also helps centrist Malay politicians dominate their Chinese partners in the ruling alliance, the Barisan Nasional, and to weaken the appeal of radical Islamic rivals in the major opposition party, PAS. However, the very political prominence that allowed the hajj agency to thrive for nearly forty years is crippling it today. Tabung Haji has become such an effective instrument of the ascendant Malay elite that it now exacerbates the same conflicts of race, class, and region that plague the nation as a whole.
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