Debates on the establishment of an Islamic state in Malaysia generally occur across partisan divides, promoting a reductionist version of Islam as a force to punish and police Muslims' day-to-day behavior. The process takes place without regard for the essential concept of Islamic jurisprudence, maqasid al-Shariah, which can be literally translated as "the objectives of Islamic law." Islamic jurisprudence, the author explains, is dynamic, subject to constant interpretation that allows the issue of Islamic statehood to be debated along ethical, political, and even circumstantial lines.
Kim Beng Phar analyzes the polarized structure of Islamic institutions in Malaysia, "where each party tries to out-Islamize the other with bold Islamic plans, symbols, and rhetoric, which in turn lend themselves to callous application." He argues that it is important for those in power to understand the broad outlines of the objectives of shariah before trying to move on to specifics.