Secularization In Malaysia: Evidence From Zakat Contribution
This paper investigates the relationship between economic growth and religion, particularly whether growth leads to desecularization. The secularization hypothesis (which is the opposite to the desecularization hypothesis (Casanova 1994); Berger 1999) ) postulates that economic growth is correlated with a decline in church membership and related practices, such as church attendance and paying church taxes. Empirical evidence for the secularization hypothesis is provided by among others, (Harskamp 2005; Kennedy 2005). However, (Gorski 2000; Alvey 2003) question the secularization hypothesis and postulate that religious movements remain strong despite economic development. So far, the secularization hypothesis has been mainly tested for Christians in developed countries. For instance, (Becker 2005) finds for the Netherlands that Church membership has been decreasing year after year while SCP (year) predicts that the secularization process will continue for the coming decades. The proposed paper revisits the secularization hypothesis for Muslims in Malaysia. Secularization is measured as individual contribution to Zakat which is a donation to those who are less fortunate. It is obligatory for a Muslim to donate 2.5% of her or his wealth each year to. In Malaysia Zakat is not imposed by the government; hence, it is voluntary. Therefore, it can be considered as an indicator of one's attitude to religion and its institutions, i.e as an indicator of (de)secularization. On the basis of a nationwide data set for the year 2005 we test an individual's Zakat contribution as a function of income controlling for various regional and socio-economic characteristics. Malaysia is an important and interesting case to test the secularization hypothesis because it is a rapidly developing country. Moreover, it is predominantly Muslim with a relatively well-developed education system which does not only focus on conventional fields but also on religion which has increased Malaysians' awareness of their religion. To our best knowledge, the proposed study is the first relating to a Muslim country. Keywords: secularization, religiosity, economic development, Malaysia
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