Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia

Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia

Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia

Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia


Southeast Asia manifests some of the most interesting, non-violent as well as conflictual elements of Islamic social and political life in the world. This book examines the ways in which Muslim politics in Southeast Asia has greatly impacted democratic practice and contributed to its practical and discursive development. It addresses the majority and minority situations of Muslims within both democratic and authoritarian politics. It shows, for example, how in Muslim majority Indonesia and Malaysia, political Islam directly engages with procedural democracy; in Muslim minority Thailand and the Philippines, it has taken a violent route; and in Muslim minority Singapore, it has been successfully managed through civil and electoral politics. By exploring such nuances, variations, comparisons and linkages among Muslim majority and minority countries, this book deepens our understanding of the phenomenon of Muslim politics in the region as a whole.


The idea of writing a book on political Islam and authoritarian democracy in Southeast Asia grew out of an earlier project on ‘Political and Civil Islam in Southeast’ under the sponsorship of the TODA Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. The seed for the idea of this present volume germinated in the TODA meeting on ‘Globalization, Regionalization, and Democratization (GRAD): A Multicultural Research Project’ at Budapest in the summer of 2004. Our group decided that political Islam had to be understood and explored further in its articulation with ‘authoritarian democracy’ in Southeast Asia. Some of us later met in Penang, at the Science University of Malaysia (where I was teaching) and further sharpened concepts and ideas. The next step was the meeting in Madrid in the summer of 2005 where some of the papers were presented. With little hesitation, the group decided to pursue the book under TODA Institute’s new program known by its acronym PEACE (Peace, Education, Art, Culture, Environment).

Our broad intellectual initiative seeks to understand why and how a ‘political’ Islam – defined broadly as the aspiration to political power and the remolding of state and society in accordance with Islamic teachings – has remained an important motive force of Southeast Asian social and political life. Its first outcome was the publication in June 2004 of Political and Civil Islam in Southeast Asia, a Special Issue of the journal Global Change, Peace and Security, edited by myself. Most of the contributors to that special issue have remained involved in the present book.

The effort took on an additional perspective after further reflections. We were convinced that the Southeast Asian states had unique political milieus which affected how political Islam took root or was manifested. This was in contradistinction with how the phenomenon took shape in the Middle East or Central Asia, often seen as the main sites of political Islam. Some of us felt that the notion of ‘authoritarian democracy’ itself needed to be interrogated and understood in tandem with the articulation of political Islam in Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority states of Southeast Asia. Seen this way, political Islam is indeed a very plural and nuanced phenomenon.

The manuscript was sent to Routledge for its consideration. I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer for critical and constructive comments on the earlier draft . . .

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