Religion in a Secular State and State Religion in Practice: Assessing Religious Influence, Tolerance, and National Stability in Nigeria and Malaysia

Chuwunenye Clifford Njoku, Hamidin Abd. Hamid


Some recent state formations are offshoots of religious societies where the elite clothed the state with religious apparel. Diverse communities and their beliefs compel many modern nations to adopt a secular state ideology in order to avoid religious domination of time. Constitutionally, Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, while the state has maintained peaceful co-existence among its religious groups with an emphasis on religious tolerance and improved wealth distribution. Conversely, Nigeria, constitutionally a secular state with shared populations of mainly Christians and Muslims, is embroiled in yearly religious conflicts. This article aims to show how Nigeria s secular state status is engulfed in religious bigotry due to institutional inadequacies. This is unlike Malaysia s state-centered influence on religion, yet its wealth distribution policy makes room for peaceful co-existence in its polity as against more severe challenges of corruption in Nigeria. The paper argues that leadership and institutional failures have exacerbated religious conflicts in Nigeria and hence the state totters in the face of tension. A theoretical debate unveils our proposition on religious practices in both countries. We rely on secondary data and empirical evidence in unveiling issues and conclude with modest recommendations.


secular state, state religion, ideology, domination, conflict, leadership, management, flaws, credibility

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