09 May 2017
The Arab Spring of 2011 offered up the prospect of Islamist political parties gaining a foothold in the Middle East and North Africa as part of a wider tide of political transformation. Six years later, the record of these parties, which are intent on organising society according to their interpretations of Islamic law, has been mixed.
The fortunes of political Islam in South-east Asia, however, appear to be changing in different ways. About 65 per cent of the global Muslim population resides in South-east Asia. The region is home to the most populous Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, which incidentally also supplies the largest contingent to the annual haj pilgrimage (around 200,000).
Volumes have been produced documenting the rich cultural inheritance and diverse historical tapestry of South-east Asian Islam, in many ways unique to the Indo-Malay archipelago. South-east Asian Islam also enjoys a long intellectual tradition.
From the efforts of stalwarts like Daud Abdullah Fatoni and Zayn al-Abidin Fatoni of southern Thailand and other ulama jawi (as South-east Asian Islamic scholars were called in the Arabian peninsula) who taught in the storied halqah (study circles) of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca during the 19th and early 20th centuries, to renowned Indonesian scholars of Islam such as Nurcholish Madjid, Abdurrahman Wahid, and Syafii Ma’arif in the more recent past, South-east Asian Muslims have always had among their ranks thinkers and scholars who have made major contributions to the advancement of Islamic thought.
Yet while these are important aspects of Islam’s place in South-east Asian society, they are not the whole story. In part because of the rich and heterogeneous heritage of South-east Asian Islam, the region’s Muslims today subscribe to different interpretations of doctrine even as they have acquired diverse social outlooks. This diversity is reflected in Islam’s growing role in the public sphere.
… Joseph Liow Chin Yong is Dean and Professor of Comparative and International Politics at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University.
GPO / RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 26/05/2017