Asian Islam in the 21st Century

Asian Islam in the 21st Century

Asian Islam in the 21st Century

Asian Islam in the 21st Century

Synopsis

Although more than half of the world's Muslims live in Asia, most books on contemporary Islam focus on the Middle East, giving short shift to the dynamic and diverse presence of Asian Islam in regional and global politics. The Muslims of Asia constitute the largest Muslim communities in the world - Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Central Asia. In recent years, terrorist bombings in Bali, separatist conflicts in Thailand and the Philippines, and opposition politics in Central Asia, all point to the strategic importance of Asian Islam. In Asian Islam in the 21st Century, terrorism and its effects are placed within the broader context of Muslim politics and how Islamic ideals and movements, mainstream and extremist, have shaped Asian Muslim societies. Democratization experiments - successful and unsuccessful - are examined. The rise of radical militant movements is analyzed and placed in historical perspective. The result is an insightful portrait of the rich diversity of Muslim politics and discourse that continue to affect Asian Muslim majority and minority countries. Specialists and students of Islamic studies, religion and international affairs, and comparative politics as well as general readers will benefit from this sorely needed comprehensive analysis of a part of the world that has become increasingly important in the 21st century.

Excerpt

John L. Esposito

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Islam is the second largest of the world’s religions. The 1.3 billion Muslims of the world are spread across more than fifty-six Muslim majority countries and in a matter of decades have become a significant presence in Europe and America, where Islam is the second and third largest religion, respectively. Despite its global profile, Islam in the popular imagination— and often in the media—still tends to be disproportionately identified with the Arab world or the Middle East. Yet, in fact, the vast majority of Muslims are in Asia and Africa.

Islam in Asia in the twenty-first century has a dynamic and diverse presence in regional and global politics. Its multifaceted significance in all areas of life and society is only now beginning to be appreciated. The Muslims of Asia constitute the largest Muslim communities in the world. In this context, Asia, especially South and Southeast Asia, enjoys special importance. First, Asia accounts for 49.7 percent of all Muslims. Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have more Muslims than the entire Arab world. A rich diversity of Muslim discourse and politics stretches from the Taliban of Afghanistan to the more modern cosmopolitan societies of Malaysia and Indonesia. Second, in the last century, Asia has produced some of the most prominent and influential intellectuals in the Muslim world: from South Asia’s Muhammad Iqbal and Abul A’la AlMawdudi to Southeast Asia’s Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid. Third, Islam has been used to legitimate self-proclaimed . . .

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