Some Malaysians fear the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement would nullify Islamic laws and unleash a wave of prostitution, alcohol consumption, pornography and other vices, according to a survey by Politweets. In a survey conducted between January 18 and February 8 of 600 Twitter users, Politweet found 7.5 per cent of them opposed the TPP for “Islamic reasons” and believe the agreement would lead to an influx of “foreign culture” that could “corrupt” the understanding of Islam. “These users opposed the TPP for religious reasons. Among the most popular reasons for this were ...[they] believed Islamic laws will no longer apply under the TPP,” said Politweet. “This would affect prohibitions on alcohol, prostitution, pornography, gambling, restriction on sales of bibles, closure of restaurants during fasting month, limitations on pig farm locations, and the freedom to attend Friday prayers.” Some also believed the TPP will prompt the removal of the halal (kosher) logo on Malaysian products. The halal logo, which appears on products as well as eateries, is a matter of great religious importance for Malaysian Muslims as it helps them ensure they consume only halal goods. Given how competitive politics have become in Malaysia, Islam has become a political football between the ruling party and the opposition Ibrahim Suffian, pollster Such views reflect the rising conservatism in Malaysia and the exploitation of Malaysian bumiputeras – or indigenous people – by religious conservatives and commercial parties opposed to free trade, according to analysts. “The TPP has increasingly been used as a plot devised by religious conservatives and indigenous commercial classes as a means to garner support for their causes for continued economic protection, preferential treatment,” said Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent pollster Merdeka Center. Malaysia has practised affirmative action since the early 1970s, whereby bumiputeras are given preferential treatment in education, economy, housing and others. “Given how widespread the conservative interpretation of Islam has been in Malaysia, religion is increasingly being used as a way for social control and expand political influence,” said Ibrahim. “Given how competitive politics have become in Malaysia, Islam has become a political football between the ruling party and the opposition. “Societal attitudes are cyclical in nature and at this point in time it does appear that Malaysians are more conservative. It is likely going to colour politics and economics for a decade or two.” Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition Barisan National (BN) lost its two-thirds majority at the last general election in 2013. Najib blamed the desertion by Chinese voters and began courting Islamists instead, deepening the country’s seam of religious conservatism. “I think the fears expressed in the survey is beyond TTP as Islamism has always been an institutional barrier in the country,” said analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani of BowerGroupAsia (BGA), a business advisory firm. “But this has been allowed to escalate following Barisan Nasional’s failure to capture the Chinese voters in the previous election. “This was followed by Umno’s [Najib’s party] political courtship of Islamist party PAS and the discussion of implementing Islamic laws. Although courtship by Umno was purely political and proved successful ... it also ignited or further empowered the conservative segments in the Malay community.” The TPP is a centrepiece of US President Barack Obama’s free trade agreement, viewed by many as an effort to counter China’s economic influence in the region. The TPP covers 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Malaysia, which signed the pact in February.