Spread Of Islam

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Spread of Islam

Spread of Islam


Of the estimated 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, about 60 per cent live in Asia. Some 250 million Muslims reside in Southeast Asia. While Muslims in this region may be a minority in the Muslim world, their role in shaping the future destiny of Islam is tar from peripheral. Indonesia Is the largest Muslim country in 11w world, Malaysia is a dynamic, modern Muslim country, and Brunei is one of the world's richest Countries. Other than these three Muslim majority countries, there are sizeable Muslim minorities in this region, including In Thailand, Philippines and Singapore, and other lesser known, smaller Muslim communities in Indochina, each with their own set of identities, aspirations and challenges.

If compared to Muslims elsewhere, it appears that Muslims in Southeast Asia are blessed with many assets and strengths. In fact in some areas of nation building, many countries in the Muslim world look upon Muslims here as a model for economic development and modernization as well as a certain moderation in Islamic practice worthy of emulation. These assets aside, the sheer diversity and heterogeneity among Muslims here and the challenges besetting their relations with fellow non-Muslim citizens, and the State, cannot be underestimated in any analysis about Islam in this region. The above challenges are more than evident when one considers matters such as the nature and extent of their Islamic practice; the salience of ethnicity in shaping their Muslim religiosity; the lack of unanimity among their religious elites (Ulama) on the kind of Islam that is to 1w adopted in this age of globalization; and the Muslims' different levels of socio-economic progress, vis-à-vis non-Muslims.

Muslim minorities, particularly those situated in the less developed countries in this region, are particularly susceptible to these problems and enigmas. Many are finding the going hard as they face the onslaught of modernization, globalization, and the States' perennial inability to accommodate their cultural and identity quests as Muslims and as citizens. Undoubtedly, events since the beginning of this century, notably the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States and the subsequent U.S.-led “war on terrorism”, have posed newer trials and tribulations for Islam and its adherents in this Part of the world. In this Introductory and general book about Islam in Southeast Asia, we shall first explain the geographical origins and sources (or agencies) by which Islam spread to this region, including the factors that helped shaped the content and contours of Islamic life amongst the Muslims here.

This will be followed by a case-study analysis of Islam and the Muslims in individual countries, covering both Muslim-majority countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) and Muslim-minority countries (Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). Given the difficulty of writing on such a complex and contentious topic among scholars, and the added challenge of presenting it in a manner that is sufficiently accessible to a generalist readership, some of the issues that will he covered here and the conclusions drawn therein, will probably be ...
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