Islam in Southeast Asia 9789812307590

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Table of contents :
Contents
About the Author
1. Introduction: Islam in Southeast Asia — Origins, Sources of Spread, and Role of Colonialism
2. Indonesia
3. Malaysia
4. Brunei
5. Singapore
6. Thailand and Philippines
7. Other Southeast Asian Countries: Indochina (Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)
8. Conclusion
References
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Islam in Southeast Asia

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The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. The Institute’s research programmes are the Regional Economic Studies (RES, including ASEAN and APEC), Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), and Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS). ISEAS Publications, an established academic press, has issued more than 1,000 books and journals. It is the largest scholarly publisher of research about Southeast Asia from within the region. ISEAS Publications works with many other academic and trade publishers and distributors to disseminate important research and analyses from and about Southeast Asia to the rest of the world. The Southeast Asia Background Series is a major component of the Public Outreach objective of ISEAS in promoting a better awareness among the general public about trends and developments in Southeast Asia. The books published in the Southeast Asia Background Series are made possible by a generous grant from the K.S. Sandhu Memorial Fund.

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Islam in Southeast Asia

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First published in Singapore in 2008 by ISEAS Publications Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang Singapore 119614 E-mail: [email protected]

• Website: bookshop.iseas.edu.sg

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. © 2008 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore The responsibility for facts and opinions in this publication rests exclusively with the author and his interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the publisher or its supporters. ISEAS Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Hussin Mutalib. Islam in Southeast Asia. (Southeast Asia Background Series) 1. Islam—Southeast Asia. I. Title. BP63 A9H96 2008 ISBN 9978-981-230-758-3 (hard cover) Typeset by International Typesetters Pte Ltd Printed in Singapore by Seng Lee Press Pte Ltd

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Contents

1

About the Author

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Introduction: Islam in Southeast Asia — Origins, Sources of Spread, and Role of Colonialism

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2

Indonesia

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3

Malaysia

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4

Brunei

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Singapore

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Thailand and Philippines

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Other Southeast Asian Countries: Indochina (Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)

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Conclusion

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References

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8

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About the Author Professor Hussin Mutalib, Ph.D. Homepage: Email: [email protected] Hussin Mutalib has been with the National University of Singapore (NUS) since the early 1980s. An Associate Professor and a political scientist by training, he is the author of five books on politics, including Islam and Ethnicity in Malay Politics (Oxford University Press), Islam, Muslims and the Modern State: Case Study of 13 Countries (MacMillan Press), and Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore (Marshall Cavendish Academic). His academic writings have been published in international journals such as Legislative Studies Quarterly, Pacific Affairs, Asian Survey, Harvard International Review, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs and Islamic Studies. A regular panelist in discussions and conferences in Southeast Asia about Islam and the Muslim world, Professor Hussin has written more than a dozen articles about Malays and Muslims in Southeast Asia specifically and the Muslim world generally. A recipient of the Fulbright Award and the Asia-Pacific Youth Leadership Award, he has been a Fellow/Visiting Professor at Harvard University, Oxford University, the London School of

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Economics and Political Science, the University of California (Berkeley), and University of Cairo. His other professional/academic activities include the following: • • • • •

• •

Director-General, Center for Contemporary Islamic Studies, Singapore. Expert Panel, OIC Project on Islamic Civilization in the Malay World. Lead Consultant, World Bank Project on Muslims in Mindanao. Founding Chairman, Association of Muslim Professionals, Singapore. Journal Editorial Advisory Board: Islamic Studies Journal, Shar’iah Journal, Asia-Pacific Review, Asian Journal of Political Science. Deputy Head, Department of Political Science, NUS. Principal Investigator, Encyclopedia of the Malay World Project (NUS).

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Chapter 1

Introduction: Islam in Southeast Asia — Origins, Sources of Spread, and Role of Colonialism 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 far from peripheral. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the 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 1

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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 be 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

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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 be covered here and the conclusions drawn therein, will probably be controversial. After all, there has been little unanimity among scholars on key aspects of Islam and Muslim life in this region. However, in spite of the inevitable subjective analyses that will be adopted in this study, every effort has been made to present an objective write-up of the topic and to offer a range of relevant information, data and commentary of the subjectmatter.

ORIGINS AND CENTERS OF EARLY ISLAMIZATION Much has been written by both foreign scholars (such as Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, British and Australian) and local indigenous writers as to when and from where Islam first “arrived” in Southeast Asia — a region roughly stretching from Cambodia (Kampuchea) and Burma (Myanmar) in present Indochina, down to Patani in southern Thailand, to the entire Malay peninsula, to Brunei, Celebes, further south to present Indonesia, then to Sulu and Mindanao in southern Philippines. However, there is little consensus among scholars on the dates, originating sources, and agencies of the Islamization process. Many, however, pointed to China and India, and later, southern Arabia, as the probable places where Islam in Southeast Asia came from. A combination of factors must have combined to explain the spread of Islam throughout the archipelago, such as via Muslim traders (Muslim merchants controlled much of the Indian Ocean trade route), Sufi missionaries, intermarriage

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with a royal household, the king’s conversion to Islam, and the appeal and universality of the Faith. Predictably, the spread of Islam was uneven in different parts of the region. The faith was subjected to prevailing economic, cultural and political circumstances and related imperatives. These include such factors as ethnicity, class, state capacity, political system, and whether Muslims were the majority or minority community in a given state. Not to be discounted are topography and demography, which also help to explain the different types of Islam that are practiced within this part of the world (Hussin 1997; Wolters 1999). More of these factors will be discussed in the later part of this introductory section. Of significance too was the element of history, especially the ethno-religious, cultural traditions and norms that have long buttressed their roots in this region. From ancient times, many aspects of life of present-day Southeast Asia Muslim were coloured by the influence of the Sri Vijaya empire with its distinctive Hindu-Buddhist heritage. Although this empire collapsed in the thirteenth century, and its presence was more concentrated in central Java and mainland Southeast Asia where the influence of Theravada Buddhism had long been entrenched, the empire’s religious-cultural legacy lingers on till today. Such an imprint, when added to the Sufi’s wellknown tolerance for coexistence with the then prevailing sociocultural environment of pre-Islam Southeast Asia, gradually seeped into the nature of Islamic practice in many parts of the region. Insofar as the beginnings of Islamization are concerned, from Muslim tombstones and other historical and archeological findings in places such as Champa and Surabaya, it could be surmised that Islam had begun to reach the shores of Southeast Asia, by about the tenth century. Writings from Chinese sources

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about the medieval Hindu Kingdom of Champa in the tenth century recorded the names of several Muslim men (such as Pu Lo E or Abu Ah and Hu Xuan or Hussain) who were either court officials or traders. However, it was only after the defeat of Champa by the Vietnamese in the fifteenth century — which also coincided with the emerging Islamic civilization in the Malay world at that time — that large scale Muslim conversions in the region occurred. A slightly different Islamic progression occurred in the maritime regions of Southeast Asia. Here, by the thirteenth century, many local historiographies (such as the babad and hikayat) pointed to Islamic cultures in coastal centers like Pedir, Perlak, Aru, Aceh, Samudra and Pasai. In 1282, the Pasai ruler sent two Muslim ambassadors (Husayn and Sulayman) to China and a decade later, in 1292, Marco Polo recorded in his travels that the people of Perlak (Ferlec) in Sumatra were Muslim. In 1297, a stone inscription of the first Pasai king, Sultan Al-Malikus Saleh, was found in the mausoleum of the Pasai kings, a finding supported by stories about the Sultan in historical epics such as Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai and Sejarah Melayu and in the records of other global navigators and travellers such as Ibn Batutta, Tome Pires and the Chinese Muslim navy Admiral, Cheng Ho. By that time, Pasai was already known to Muslims in the Middle East, particularly in Mecca and Egypt. The evidence were the historical reports that recorded how some Meccan scholars and jurists (ulama) had sought out expert religious opinions (fatwa) from the Pasai ulama. From Pasai in Sumatra, Islam spread to the port city of Malacca (Melaka) in the Malay peninsula, where, even more so than Pasai, Malacca was to become the leading Islamic center for the entire region in the fifteenth century. Historical records and chronicles, as well as archeological artifacts, showed how

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Parameswara, the Malaccan king who converted to Islam in 1414 (and assumed the Muslim name of Megat Iskandar Shah) and then married a Pasai princess, had contributed to the subsequent adoption of Islam by most of his subjects. Under the reign of Mudzaffar Shah (1446–59), Islam was proclaimed as the official religion of the State. His successors’ religious scholarship and leadership, together with trade and conquest, also contributed to the conversion and eventual spread of Islam not only among the peoples in the Malay peninsula, but also in the littoral and riverine cities such as Palembang in Sumatra, Patani in Thailand, North Borneo, Brunei and Mindanao in the Philippines. Islam would have spread even wider and more rapidly beyond Mindanao if not for the Spanish conquest in 1570. The determination of the Spanish kings to establish a foothold for Christianity in the region saw the faith becoming the predominant religion of the Filipinos. The millions of indigenous Muslims in the Philippines prior to the Spanish’s arrival were either resettled or had to flee farther south, after their ancestral lands were taken away. Even today, this issue of ancestral land ownership continues to be a major source of Muslim unhappiness in the Republic, confirmed by a World Bank study in 2005. When Malacca fell to the Portuguese in 1511 and later to the Dutch in 1642, the Javanese states were not in a position to assume the Muslim leadership of the region, although much of Java was already Islamized by then. Such a regional leadership role was taken up instead by Aceh. Classical Malay texts document how Aceh not only controlled many Malay states then, but had a booming entrepot trade, particularly under its strong Muslim Sultans, Sultan Ibrahim (or Ali Moghayat Shah: 1507–28) and Iskandar Muda Mahkota Alam (1607–36). Her strategic location at the crossroads between the Malay archipelago and India, the

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control of the spice trade in an era of rapid commercialization of the region, as well as her overall prosperity, helped Aceh to become a centre of Islamic scholarship, whose influence later spread to coastal areas in eastern parts of Indonesia such as Sulawesi, Lombok, Kalimantan and Makassar. However, the Dutch collaboration with Johore in the latter’s conflict with Aceh ultimately gave Johore the upperhand. After warding off the challenge from the Minangkabau, the Johore Sultans took over the role of Acehnese rulers and, from its new capital, the Johor-Lingga (Riau) Sultanate, led the revival of Islam in the region, which continued till about the mid-seventeenth century. The Islamic leadership and economic power of this particular Sultanate were documented for posterity in the two most notable Bugis religious-literary works in the nineteenth century, the Tuhfat-ul-Nafis (“The Precious Gift”) and the Salasilah Raja-raja Melayu dan Bugis (“The Geneology of Malay and Bugis Kings”). Such was the historical backdrop of the changes in the regional Islamic leadership of states in this part of the world — from Pasai to Malacca to Brunei to Aceh and Johor-Riau. Insofar as the agencies of the spread of Islam is concerned, the roles played by Sufi missionaries and Muslim traders have been well documented. So too were the part played by other religious institutions and agencies like the masjid (mosque), madrasah (Islamic school) and smaller religious boarding schools such as the pondok and the pesantren. Not to be neglected was the role of Muslim kings (Raja) and Sultans who used state resources to spread Islam and its teachings beyond the country’s borders, borders whose meanings and territorial scopes do not correspond to today’s definitions of “states” and “countries”. If we were to remember that for centuries, the Raja or Sultan was the pivotal center of Muslim life, and whose orders

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must be obeyed, we would be able to fathom how powerful Muslim kings were. Their patronage of Islamic learning further consolidated the strength of the faith, particularly in areas and localities where they had political and economic control. While a few kings controlled large areas that more resembled an empire, many others ruled vibrant and prosperous sultanates, as was the case with Pasai, Melaka, Aceh and Johor-Riau. Those with smaller areas of control were not to be discounted: they either formed constellations of networks with other kings (as was the situation with the Kelantanese sultans), or “moved about” their kingship, based on the king’s movements from one territory to another, as was the case with the Melaka sultans. In this latter regard, there was a popular Malay saying, “where the king was, there was the kingdom”. Coupled with the centuries-old tradition of “migration” (merantau) among Malays within the Malay World (Nusantara), these movements led to the settlement of numerous diasporic Muslim communities in many parts of Southeast Asia.

ARRIVAL AND IMPACT OF COLONIALISM Then came colonialism — a phenomenon that, in more ways than one, checked much of the glory and grandeur of Islam in this part of the world. To begin with, after the fall of the three principal Muslim Sultanates as mentioned earlier, every one of the Southeast Asian states, with the exception of Thailand, lost the power to chart its own destiny by the turn of the nineteenth century. The competition to carve their “spheres of influence” led to the major powers at that time — Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and British — to “divide and rule” their respective areas of control in the region. Thus, the Portuguese in Malacca, the Spanish in the

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Philippines, the French in Indochina, the Dutch in Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies), and the British in Malaya, Brunei and Singapore. This colonial impact on Islam and Muslim rule cannot be underestimated, given its political, economic, cultural and religious ramifications. To start with, colonialism transformed many facets of the religious life of Southeast Asians, including that of the Muslims (Hussin 1994b). Islamic laws and jurisprudence (shar’iah) was “bureaucratized” in that the administration of Islam was regulated, standardized, and controlled by colonial officials who, more often than not, used Western, secular models in governing the states under their charge. In turn, this led to the marginalization of the power of traditional Muslim elites as well as the practice of the shar’iah, in preference for colonialappointed religious functionaries and secular laws. In the Malay peninsula, the British abrogated their promise, made in the 1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty, not to interfere with matters affecting Malays and their religion. On the contrary, no sooner after the British established the Straits Settlements (comprising Penang, Singapore and Malacca) in 1826, British laws were enacted as the laws of the land for quite a number of Malay states. In some cases, important religious rulings affecting Islamic courts and Islamic laws as well as the jurisdiction of kadhis (Islamic judges) were confined and subjected to the “advice” of British officials, an advice that must be adhered to. A new administrative body, the Majlis Agama Islam (Islamic Religious Council), was established and this undercut the role and power of the Sultans, traditional Islamic bureaucrats and jurists (ulama). Several British officials, having left active service in Malaya, are on record to have stated how proud they were in preventing Islamic laws from becoming the law of Malaya.

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In Dutch’s Netherlands East Indies (present Indonesia), a similar transformation of the Muslim political and religious landscape occurred. This was evident when one sees the dilution of the shar’iah and adat laws (customary practices), and the relegation of the power of the Sultans and traditional Islamic leaders and jurists. Fearful of the powerful ulama, Dutch authorities, especially under the advice of Christian Snouck Hurgronge (whose doctoral studies on Mecca was put to full use when he later helped the Dutch government to devise strategies that crushed the anti-Dutch uprisings especially in Aceh) imposed severe restrictions over the activities of the ulama and curtailed the practice of the shar’iah. The curbing of the traditional power of the Javanese regents by Daendels with his appointment of ministers to the courts of Jogjakarta and Surakarta and his re-channelling of economic produce to colonial officials under the ‘Culture System’, rendered the regents ineffective. Dutch denials of Diponegoro’s calls for greater Islamization of the state administration had resulted in the waging of anti-Dutch religious hostilities, leading to the Java War in 1825–31. Similarly, the colonization of the Philippines, first by the Americans (1899–1903) and later, the Spanish, resulted in turning the Philippines into the only Christian majoritystate in Southeast Asia. Under Spanish rule in particular, much of the power of the traditional Muslim elders — the datu and penghulu — were circumscribed. Muslims were also deprived of their ancestral land rights after the introduction of the “Regalian doctrine”, which transferred all lands to the Church, then controlled by the Spanish political and religious elites. Economically, shifting of what had been a centuries-old economic system — from a sea-based enterprise to an inland-

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based economy — had also adversely affected the position and influence of the Muslim rulers (Hussin 1997). Traditionally positioning their ruling houses facing the sea or river, these rulers had reaped the benefits of the taxation and other systems of control that regulates seafaring activities and trade. The transformation to an agricultural, mineral and plantation economy, had the effect of undermining the economic and political power of such rulers. Active proselytization by the Church and the migration of Christians into Muslim areas led the Moros, once the majority inhabitants of the Mindanao region, to become a minority community. Although Filipino Muslims were an ethnically heterogeneous community, consisting of the Maranaos, Tausugs, Sulus, Maguindanaos, and other ethnic groups, they practiced a similar Islamic system of laws and jurisprudence. But these were soon conscripted and subjected to the overarching Christian and secular encroachment. This colonial incursion in Muslim life was also evident in mainland Southeast Asia, presently Indochina. The impact intensified in the nineteenth century after French forces occupied Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, with the Portuguese and British exercising lesser roles in Myanmar (Burma). It is plausible to argue that the colonial impact upon Islam and the Muslims in Southeast Asia would have been even more pronounced if not for the force of Islamic intellectual and social power of Muslim anti-colonial groups, and their sustained and persistent armed resistance to colonial occupation. This latter factor was evident in the bloody uprisings by Muslim jihad groups and the influence of some Islamic movements, which had, amongst their goals, the independence of Muslims from colonial rule. In the Malay peninsular, the Naning War in 1832 sowed the seeds that led to the assassination of the British Resident, J. W. W. Birch in 1876, and in Indonesia, the Padri Wars and

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other scattered rebellions against the Dutch were spearheaded by Islamist-nationalist groups. Obviously, beyond the issue of colonialism, any discussion about the content and contours of the growth of Islam in this part of the world, as elsewhere, will be incomplete without an examination of other factors. One imperative relates to the type of State-system and its governing paradigm extant in a given country. A case in point was the “assimilationist” tendencies of post-colonial regimes, which rendered the identity quest of Muslim minorities even more difficult. The second is whether Muslims are in the majority or minority community, in numbers. The third is the relative influence of prevalent cultures, religions, and the environment at large, over Islam and its adherents. The fourth and final determinant is the “international” factor, which, in the post-9/11 period, includes what came to be known as the global “war on terrorism”. These factors will become obvious when we later discuss case studies of Islam and the Muslims in individual countries in this region. With the above overview — about the origins and sources of the spread of Islam in this region, and the role of colonialism and other contributing factors in shaping the growth and development of Islam and its adherents — as a backdrop, it is time to focus our attention to the prevailing issues confronting Muslims in specific countries in this region. We shall first begin with the maritime states (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines) to be followed by the mainland states (Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).

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Chapter 2

Indonesia Islam came to present-day Indonesia around the thirteenth century. Gradually, through the complex process of trade with Muslims, conversion of the royalty to Islam, and the appeal of the Muslim faith, the faith spreads across the length and breadth of the archipelago, which, consisting of more than 17,000 islands, is the largest in the world. By the sixteenth century, Muslims were already the majority community in most parts of the archipelago, covering about 1 million km, except the Hindu-majority island of Bali. Among the wellknown Muslim Sultanates in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, were the Demak, Mataram, Ternate, Tidore and Aceh Sultanates. The nature of Islamic practice and the role of Islam in Indonesia were shaped by many factors, two of which are probably the most important. The first is the then prevailing Hindu-Buddhist-animist environment that had long existed and flourished before the advent of Islam. Present Indonesia has had a long history of Hindu-Buddhist rule and influence, and much has been written about the Srivijaya, Sailendra and Mataram kingdoms. Given such a political and religious backdrop, the Islamization process in Indonesia was not only slow, but was also fused with local, indigenous HinduBuddhist-animist mores and norms. In this latter regard, one 13

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example that comes to mind is the resort to gamelan music (which originated in Hindu culture) by the famed Islamic brothers known as the “Wali Songo” in their spread of Islam in the Indonesian heartlands. The second factor that has to be included in any discussion about the role and influence of Islam in this archipelago is the advent of colonial rule (Portuguese, Dutch, British), particularly the Dutch. After its seizure of Ambon in 1605, Holland regarded the occupied country as the Dutch East Indies and adopted a series of policies and laws that had the effect of curtailing the role of Islam in the country. Faced with Muslim separatist rebellions such as the Anglo-Dutch Java War (1810–11), the Padri War (1821–37) and the Darul Islam strife (1948–62), Dutch official policy, which carried much of the imprint of Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936), was to confine Islam as a ‘cultural’ faith devoid of its political role. This inhibitive approach towards “Political Islam” (an Islam that, for the most part, calls for greater implementation of the syar’iah for Muslims in state policy) was to be later echoed by succeeding Indonesian military-led governments ever since the country’s Independence, namely, the Sukarno and Soeharto (Suharto) regimes. Although the reformation (Reformasi) movement in Indonesia since 1998, which led to the downfall of President Soeharto, saw an increasing role for Islam in the Republic, by and large, the Muslim faith and its pro-Islam adherents have to act in ways that acknowledges, if not accommodates, the reality that the country is a diverse and heterogeneous Republic. Today, Muslims, numbering about 175 million, constitute about 85 per cent of Indonesia’s total population of about 230 million. Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are the main minority religions. With such numbers, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Invariably, this huge Muslim

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population will make Islam and its followers as central actors in Indonesian society and politics. However, one has to remember that Indonesian Muslims are neither monolithic ethnically nor united religiously (Geertz 1964; Effendy 2003). This reality can be explained by a closer examination of the varied and multi-faced landscape that is characteristic of Indonesia and her people. To begin with, although comprising about 42 per cent of the population, the Javanese, more than any other ethnic group (which includes Sundanese, Madurese, and “Malays”) dominate politics. Concentrated in the most populous island, Java (which is home to the nation’s capital, Jakarta), the Javanese have long influenced the path of the country’s nationbuilding agendas. This was consolidated after President Soeharto led a military coup that toppled President Soekarno (1959–66) and changed the latter’s “Guided Democracy” to “Pancasila Democracy”. Javanese elites held leadership positions in all key instruments of the state apparatus: political, economic, military, and religious. Secondly, as indicated earlier, Indonesian Muslims are a heterogeneous community, often divided along ethnic, regional, political and religious loyalties. Although Indonesian politics has its pivotal centre in Jakarta, Muslims in different parts of the archipelago (such as Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan) tend to follow their own regional leaders and regional politics. Thirdly, even in the matter of Islamic allegiance, Indonesian Muslims adopt different strands of Islam, an Islam which Clifford Geertz categorized, albeit problematically, into three main types: the santri (purist), abangan (nominal) and the priyayi (bureaucratic/aristocratic elite) (Geertz 1964). These different types of Islam have to contend with other differing orientations within Indonesian Islam: popular piety (such as kebatinan mysticism), the “modernists” (with protagonists such

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as the late Nurcholish Majid and Muhammadiyah) and the “traditionalists” (represented by institutions like the Majelis Ulama Indonesia and Nahdatul Ulama). In more recent times, yet another strand — that of “Islamic liberalism” (Islam Liberal) that espouses a liberal interpretation of the syar’iah in confronting issues of modernity — come to the fore. This particular Islamic practice tend to occupy quite a bit of media space, including the Internet. Such is the complex dynamic that characterizes Indonesian Islam.

ISLAM DURING SOEHARTO’S REIGN The Islamization process in Indonesia was not all smooth. It had to face some difficult challenges during the more than three decades of authoritarian rule under President Soeharto (1967–98). Soeharto was highly suspicious of “Political Islam”, an Islam that exerts pressure upon the State for greater Islamization of the country. This was manifested in the calls by activist Muslim groups and parties for the adoption of more Islamic Law (Shar’iah) in the Indonesian body politic. For the perspective, historically, such calls are not new in Indonesia, since they echoed similar sentiments from anti-colonial Muslim groups in the run up to Indonesian independence from Dutch rule in 1949. Known popularly as the Jakarta Charter (Piagam Jakarta), this Charter, when first introduced by Islamic groups during the constitutional debates in 1945, called for the Constitution to be changed so as to place Muslims under the jurisdiction of Islamic law — via the inclusion of the “seven words”, namely, “… obligation to live (according to) Islamic law for Muslims”. Ruling as a dictator and supported by the military (ABRI and TNI), Soeharto instead repressed the Charter and reinstituted

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an ideology that was first proposed by the Sukarno-Hatta nationalist leadership, namely, Pancasila (“Five Principles” of State Ideology). The Five Principles were: The Belief in One and Only One God; A Just and Civilized Humanity; The Unity of Indonesia; Democracy by Consultation and Consensus; and Social Justice for All. Not only did severe penalties await deviants of this ideology, by the mid-1980s, Soeharto’s “New Order” (Orde Baru) rule also made Pancasila as the asas tunggal (sole basis) by which all Indonesians, including political parties that used to operate under their own ideological and philosophical tenets, must abide. Failure to adhere to this government order would result in heavy state punishments and other retributions. In his attempt to consolidate the strength of ABRI and exploit this military establishment in his favour, Soeharto had also decreed that the military should expand its traditional role of looking after the country’s defense and security to also include its direct involvement in civil and societal affairs. In this latter regard, even religion begun to come under the watchful eyes of military generals and other officials from the security and intelligence establishment. Thus, Soeharto’s declaration about the “double function” of the military, a function captioned by the Indonesian term, dwifungsi. Thus began the extensive role of the military establishment in the economic and socio-political development of the Republic. This trend had led many scholars to describe Indonesia’s modality of governance then as one of “praetorianism”, a governance characterized by the predominant power of the military in state affairs and politics. One consequence of the State’s conscription and regulation of religious life is the flourishment of “popular Islam”, characterized by the fusion of syncretic, Hindu practices with Islamic teachings. The other result was the “de-politicization”

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of the faith amongst the Muslims. As it turned out, Muslimbased parties that had long operated under the banner of Islam, such as the Masyumi, Nahdatul Ulama, and Sarekat Islam — which had openly supported the Jakarta Charter and which won 114 of the 257 seats (43 per cent) during Sukarno’s rule — could no longer use religion (Islam) as their rallying platform. What was to further weaken “Political Islam” was Soeharto’s passage of another decree that gave no choice but forced the then eleven major political parties to band themselves in only three parties (PPP, PDI, Golkar), with PPP being the only Islamicbased political grouping. The outcome was the landslide victory of Golkar (Party of Functional Groups), which Soeharto himself officially patronized, in all the General Elections under his rule. As if that was not sufficient to allay his fears of Muslim activism, Soeharto even interfered in the selection of leaders for the Muslim parties and quashed violently the Islamic protestations in many parts of Indonesia, such as in Aceh, West Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra. He also pushed through a new Central Council of Ulama, staffed his people in the Council and gave it the mandate to monitor Islamic activities throughout the Republic. Consisting of pro-establishment Islamic scholars who echo the government’s policies and preferences about Islam, the Council received little legitimacy from the majority of the Muslims. Intriguingly, his dictatorial regime, while generally despised by the masses, managed to check the country’s earlier economic woes such as poverty, income gap and lack of foreign investment. For some years, the economy seemed to be improving. By the early 1990s, however, the groundswell for change became more apparent, as the movement for civil society and greater democratization gathers momentum. Realizing the

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difficulty to block this momentum, and by then, needing also to check the growing might of the military, Soeharto initiated a range of politically-motivated moves to appease the “Islamic ground”: launched new Islamic financial institutions (such as the Bank Mu’amalat), co-opted Muslim elites (politicians and military generals), passed laws that enshrined the role of religious education and a greater power for shar’iah courts in 1989, supported the launching of the ICMI (Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association) in 1990, performed the Hajj in 1991, and, since 1993, encouraged the “greening” (Islamization) of the TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces). These pro-Islamic overtures, however, came too late and were insufficient to sustain his rule, given the people’s disdain of his authoritarian governance and his curbing of civil liberties. Accentuating his political slide was the Asian economic crisis, which affected Indonesia badly and Soeharto was shown publicly to be pressured by international lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

ISLAM IN INDONESIA TODAY — AND FUTURE PROSPECTS Soeharto’s fall from power in 1998 abruptly ended his 32-year unpopular, iron-fist reign, and ushered in a new period of Indonesian democracy. Under his successors — Presidents B.J. Habibie (1998–99), Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur; 1999–2001), Megawati Soekarnoputri (2001–04), and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–) — the old state-regulated politics gave way to a new political culture, manifest by the flourishing of civil society, the liberalization of mass media, and the mushrooming of numerous political parties. In 1998 alone, in preparation for the then approaching 1999 General Election, more than 180

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parties were registered, of which 17 were eventually allowed to contest the 550 seats for parliament — a sharp contrast to the 3-party restriction that was decreed by Soeharto. Interestingly though, in both the 1999 and 2004 General Elections, Islamic-based parties such as the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), did not perform well, despite forming the Muslim bloc known as the “Central Axis”. This was a far cry from the early experiment in 1955, when Islamic parties campaigned for an Islamic Indonesia, as was the case with the Masyumi and Nahdatul Ulama parties, and received 21 per cent and 19 per cent of the votes respectively (and a combined 40 per cent) in that Election. Apparently, the excesses of military rule that have impeded the peoples’ progress and the many economic and political changes since the 1960s (such as modernization, democratization and globalization) could have changed the way by which many Indonesian Muslims perceive Islam and the role it should play in the country’s future. In fact, in more recent years, the people’s electoral mandate seems to have been channelled to parties that are inclusive and nationalist in orientation, such as the Golkar and PDI-P. These parties also consciously reach out to non-Muslims. While the leaders of PKS and PBB occupy some foothold in the MPR (People’s Consultative Assembly) and the State Secretariat, their electoral strength is not as solid. Admittedly, the PKS succeeded in mobilizing more than 100,000 people to support the Anti-Pornography Bill in 2006. However, this does not in any way suggest the rise in its political clout. Perhaps, it merely indicates that policies which openly run against the Islamic sensitivities of the general Muslim populace would not receive their endorsement. Apparently, while Muslims are the majority in the country and Islam continues to play an important role

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in society and politics, when it comes to choosing political parties and the direction to which Islam should be heading to, voters — including the Muslim electorate — would opt for the more moderate, nationalist and secular parties over Islamicallyoriented ones. The fall of Soeharto impacted Islam in other ways. Specifically, his exit had the effect of energizing Muslim-based organizations, two of which have a large membership base and have direct links with political parties, namely, the Nahdatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah. The Nahdatul Ulama, founded in 1924, has about 40 million members, and focuses more on education of its members (through Islamic educational institutions like the pesantren, pondok and madrasah), and was, for a long time, led by Gus Dur (Abdurrahman Wahid), who became the President of Indonesia for a short spell, in 1999–2001. Gus Dur was pressured to step down after the MPR (“Majelis Permesyuaratan Rakyat”) voted unanimously in July 2001 for his impeachment, because of a series of perceived strong-arm and highly unpopular policies undertaken by him. These included his attempts to dissolve Parliament, the removal of Cabinet Ministers who opposed him, and his call for the declaration of a State of Emergency, which was re-buffed by Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, then the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security. The Muhammadiyah, founded in 1912, has some 25 million members, and is known to be a proponent of reformist or modernist Islam. Led by Muslim activists such as Dr Amien Rais — who was later to become the Speaker of Parliament — Dr Ma’arif Shafii and and Drs Din Shamsuddin, the movement has a strong following in the cities. However much they wanted to capitalize on Soeharto’s downfall and also on the fact that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, both these mass-based

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Muslim organizations had to content with the secular and nationalist pulls of Indonesian society with its “middle of the road” hybrid Islamic cultures. As an example, occurrences of radical and extremist Muslim activism (manifest in groups such as Laskar Jihad, Hizbut Tahrir, Jemaah Islamiah, Majelis Mujahidin and Front Pembela Islam) are not only relatively recent, but these are fringe Muslim elements that are shunned by the majority of Muslims themselves. These extremist groups seemed to have surfaced because of the country’s weak state capacity to handle the general breakdown of law and order in the democratic transition phase post-Soeharto (Rabasa 2003; Riddell 2002). It is to be conceded that from time to time, one witnesses the intensification of the “Islamic appeal” in Indonesia. Some examples that comes to mind are the following: the ten-fold increase of membership of the PKS (from 60,000 in 1999 to half a million in 2004); the criticisms by the Council of Ulama (Majelis Ulama Indonesia) against pluralism, secularism and liberalism in 2005 and its fatwa banning mixed marriages and inter-faith prayers; and the official cancellation of Indonesia’s participation in the international “Federation Cup” in 2006. Indonesian Muslims too have been at the forefront of public demonstrations and rallies in support of the plight of Muslims elsewhere, such as Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the United States’ military bombardment of Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the above examples are actually episodic occurrences and are not indicative of trends that suggest a broader pattern of Islamic assertiveness among the population at large. Islamic religiosity may be on the rise, but this ascendancy is not to be equated with the hardening of Muslim extremism or radicalism. In fact, even Islamic-oriented publications of some credibility

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such as Panji Masyarakat and Journal Islam have also reported declining readership and sales since 2003. Obviously, there have been exceptions. A case in point is Aceh, which, given its past Islamic history and state repression, can be expected to intensify its Islamization agendas, now that the once pro-independent GAM (Free Aceh Movement) has accepted the autonomy deal from Jakarta. So too with media reports about the violence and instability in places such as Ambon (Maluku) and Poso (central Sulawesi) that some claimed to have been caused by radical Muslim groups. Arguably, more tangible explanations to the violence — such as the State manipulation of religion, the local-migrant tension, and the general breakdown of law and order, consequent to the fall of Soeharto — needed to be given attention to. In some cases, the more the State repression against innocent Islamist-oriented groups, the more openly antagonistic these groups become. Media manipulation of such groups in their reporting had worsened the problem. Looking to the future, it is unlikely that the oft-quoted specter of the “Islamic state” would materialize in Indonesia. Originally declared by the leader of the Darul Islam rebellion, Kartosurwiryo, in 1948, the prospect for this scenario to occur is indeed remote. Not only is the Republic’s political elite hesitant to change what is essentially a secular State, there are other factors and realities that explains the country’s wariness towards greater Islamization: the country’s archipelagic, decentralized state structures with differing policy priorities; the changing nature of aliran politics (formerly based primarily on ethnic and cultural primordialism); the existence of millions of ethnoreligious non-Muslim minority communities; the rejection of the Jakarta Charter by two of the largest Islamic movements, NU and Muhammadiyah; and the peoples’ experience with

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terrorism and religious fanaticism post-9/11; to mention the obvious examples. Admittedly, given the strength of the Presidency in recent times — boosted by President Yudhoyono’s (SBY) victory in the Presidential Election in 2004 — much attention will be placed on his capacity and ingenuity to govern in general, and his management of Islam in particular. The President’s assets are many: the legitimacy for being the first directly-elected President; his military background; and his partnership with Yusuf Kalla, the Vice-President, who is a successful entrepreneur and chairman of Golkar. His problems, however, cannot be underestimated: redressing persistent economic woes (such as unemployment, poverty and income gap); commanding a small party base in the legislature (his party, the Partai Demokrat only occupies 10 per cent of parliamentary seats); dealing with a newly-tried, untested multi-party political system; and coping with the threat of terrorism from Muslim extremists. His successors will require more than luck to recoup from the long years of authoritarian excesses under Soeharto and extraordinary ingenuity dealing with other “givens” or realities that characterize the vast and complex Indonesian landscape.

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Chapter 3

Malaysia Islam has had a long history in Malaysia, ever since the faith “arrived” in its shores in what are now the states of Kedah, Perak, Kelantan and Trengganu, from around the twelfth century BC. Admittedly, this period has been a hotly debated one but the excavation of the “Trengganu stone” bearing the age of this period was a major argument used by some scholars to support the twelfth century origins of the Islamization process in Malaysia. The simplicity of the message of the faith, the role of Muslim Sufis and traders, and the conversion of the Malay Sultans, all helped to spread the religion in the Malay peninsular. From time immemorial, Islam in Malaysia — previously Tanah Melayu (Malay Land) — has been closely aligned with the Malay ethnic community, the majority, indigenous “sons of the soil” (bumiputra). The role of Malacca (Melaka) in the eventual spread of Islam throughout the Malay world cannot be underestimated. After all, at the height of its power in the fifteenth century, Malacca was the centre of Islam in the entire region of Southeast Asia. When Malacca fell to the Portuguese in 1511, and later, British (1824), its role was taken over by the Johor-Riau kingdom. During British rule (1824–1957), Islam could be said to have been “bureaucratized”. British officials introduced and regulated Islamic institutions such as the Religious Council (Majlis Agama) 25

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and the Islamic courts, as well as exercised tremendous influence over the policy implementation of Islamic law (shar’iah) in the country. Although British officials (via Governor Generals, Commissioners and Residents) did not curtail Islam — for instance, Christianity was spread only to non-Malays in the main, and the Sultans’ symbolic power over Malays and Islam were left intact — for the most part, however, the advice of British officials, had to be acted upon (Hussin Mutalib 1990; Pangkor Treaty). When Malaya was approaching Independence in 1957, much debate and controversy occurred among the Sultans, the leading Malay nationalist party, United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the British-initiated Reid Constitutional Commission, and other ethnic communities, as to the position and role that Islam should play in multiracial and multireligious Malaya. Significantly, that the Rulers, as symbols of the “protectors” of Islam, actually did not support the proposal by Justice Hamid from India (who was one of the framers of the Constitution) to make Islam the official religion during the multi-party constitutional deliberations. In the end, the pressure by Islamic activists and some UMNO leaders saw such a role being spelt out in the Constitution (Article 3 (1): “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation”.) This constitutional clause was retained when the country was enlarged into a bigger federation in 1963 with the incorporation of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore into the Malaysian federation. Hence, other than Islam (mostly of the Sunni variant), Buddhism, Christianity, Hindhuism and “Chinese religions” continue to be practised within the federation’s multi-religious landscape. The nature and extent of Islamic practice post-Independence are shaped by a number of factors, such as the colonial legacy,

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and the pressures and political manouvering by Malay elites, both nationalist and Islamic. The tensions among these ‘political actors’, and other imperatives, help to mould the role of Islam and the attendant Malay identity quest in plural, multiracial Malaysia. Ever since the late 1970s, however, and against the backdrop of the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, the country has witnessed what came to be known as the “revival” of Islam. This reaffirmation of the Islamic ethos was buttressed further during the reign of Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed (1981–2003), starting with his official declaration to “Islamise the government machinery” in 1984 (Hussin Mutalib 1990, 1993). What ensued was the flourishment of Islam and a general burgeoning of civil society in many parts of Peninsular Malaysia (Nakamura, Siddique, Bajunid 2001). Mahathir’s initiatives led to the manifest mushrooming of Islamic institutions locally and a pro-Islam foreign policy orientation internationally. Under his administration, and supported by the then influential ABIM (Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement) leader, Anwar Ibrahim who was then his Deputy, Malaysia caught headlines in many parts of the Muslim world. The range and breadth of Islamic initiatives that were undertaken by Mahathir were indeed extensive. Some of these include the following: revision of the national legal system to make it more in line with the Islamic legal system; making Religious Knowledge a compulsory subject in schools; doubling the number of Islamic programmes over radio and television; reorienting the country’s economic system into an Islamic model; declaring that economic development would not be done at the expense of spiritual progress; establishing Islamic banks and financial institutions (such as IKIM, IIUM, IEF); upgrading the role of the National Islamic Center (Pusat Islam); setting up of the Islamic Missionary Foundation (Yayasan Dakwah);

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proclaiming that UMNO was the biggest Islamic party in the country; and in foreign policy, the official declaration that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Commonwealth were no longer as important as the Muslim world (Hussin Mutalib 1993). Consequently, Islamic symbols became widely evidenced throughout the Malaysian landscape: headscarf (tudung) worn by Muslim women; Islamic institutions such as mosques, Islamic banks and Islamic courts; celebrations marking the Muslim New Year, the Eid festivals and Prophet Muhammad’s birthday; and the annual hosting of the widely publicized Quran-reading competitions for both national and international participants. The new radio channel, IKIM, increased substantially both its Islamic-related programmes and broadcast times. However, events in the late 1990s made for an ambivalent picture with regard to the Islamization process in Malaysia. Much of this uncertainty was precipitated by Mahathir’s public clash with his Deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, which led to the latter’s sacking on charges of unIslamic behaviour, which Anwar denied. What resulted was Anwar’s launching of the Reformasi (reformation) movement that saw public demonstrations from Anwar’s supporters against the Prime Minister. The wide support that this movement received from many ethnic Malays and Muslims then, led to the official formation of the KeAdilan Party (Justice Party), a party that later succeeded in roping a few Opposition parties, such as PAS and the DAP, into an umbrella political coalition called the Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front). When Anwar was found by the courts to be guilty of some of the charges levelled at him by Mahathir, the leadership of this Opposition coalition was taken over by Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah. Significantly for Malays and Islam, this intra-Malay disunity divided the predominant Malay ethnic community into two major camps, namely, the Anwar/PAS camp and the Mahathir/

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UMNO camp. The result of this schism was UMNO’s loss of the majority Malay vote in the General Election of 1999 to the Anwar/PAS collaboration; UMNO’s leadership of the National Front coalition government was saved by the bigger than usual electoral support from non-Malay voters, especially the Chinese. The debácle was not only a setback for Muslim unity, but, at least at that time, for Islam too. On the one hand, the General Election saw pressures by non-Muslim voters for compensation from the Mahathir-led government as a way of acknowledging their electoral support. On the other, the PAS’ insistence that the Barisan Alternatif continue to pursue an “Islamic state” agenda finally led to the departure of the DAP from the Opposition coalition. Against the above tumultuous political backdrop, Mahathir surprised many by deciding to relinquish his leadership of both UMNO and the Government. His chosen successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who became Prime Minister in November 2003, continued Mahathir’s pro-Islam orientation. (More would be said about this later.) However, like his predecessors, Badawi could not but remain mindful of the fact that Malaysia is a secular, plural and multi-religious society, a reality that all Malaysian governments, whatever their religious inclinations and predispositions, have to take account of. In fact, if East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak, the two largest states that merged in the federation in 1963) is added to our discussion about Islam and the Muslims in the country, Malaysia is actually a “bi-modal” State. By this is meant that the equation between the dominant Malay ethnic group and the non-Malays is about equal, with Malays constituting barely 55 per cent of the total population of about 28 million. Other ethnic groups includes the Chinese and Indians in West Malaysia, and Tausug, Bajau, Kadazans, Murut, Iban, Bidayuh, Dayaks and

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other indigenous tribes (orang asli) in East Malaysia. Measured by religious affiliation, Muslims constitute close to 60 per cent, with 20 per cent Buddhists, 9 per cent Christians, and 5 per cent Hindus. While this factor of Malaysian pluralism is to be conceded, an important imperative that cannot be underestimated when accessing the position and role of Islam in the country is the political dominance of ethnic Malays and the Malay party, UMNO. Given their smaller numbers, ethnic (Muslim) Indians, Pakistanis and other converts (Chinese and indigenous groups from Sabah and Sarawak) have no choice but to accept Malay/ Muslim dominance in Islamic affairs. The UMNO party is the “big brother” of the multiracial coalition government, which was called the Alliance (Persekutuan) during Independence on 31 August 1957 and the National Front (Barisan Nasional) ever since 1974. UMNO’s role in the nationalist movement during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45) and more importantly, in delivering Independence to the country, gave the party its political legitimacy to rule, a rule that was further consolidated after the racial riots that rocked the country on 13 May 1969. The riots heralded the beginnings of a pro-Malay (bumiputra) policy in all aspects of state administration, including economy and education. Through the New Economic Policy (NEP), launched in 1974 — the largest and most radical governmental blueprint to uplift the socio-economic status of Malays — special quotas were enshrined and institutionalized to grant Malays abundant opportunities vis-à-vis other ethnic groups. This was implemented via affirmative action programmes and a series of other similar schemes involving education, economy and the bureaucracy. Despite being nationalist in origins and orientation, in UMNO’s quest to outbid the Opposition Islamic party, PAS, it has often resorted to the Islamic trump card. This has been its way

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in appeasing its Muslim supporters, which wish to see the party do more to demonstrate its “pro-Islam” position vis-à-vis PAS. The above backdrop is yet another factor that needed appreciation in any analysis about Malaysian Islam. Since Islam is integral to Malay culture, UMNO has little choice but to push for “more Islam” in its attempt to woo PAS’ supporters to its side, especially during the period of General Elections. After all, PAS had once controlled two states, Trengganu and Kelantan, and although it only won Kelantan in the 2004 Election, it still commands pockets of electoral support across the peninsula. And the party had publicly declared its intention to make Kelantan an Islamic state. In spite of the strength of the ethnic and nationalist pull among the majority of Malays, undoubtedly, Islam continues to be a forceful rallying idiom in the Malay psyche even today. In this regard, intriguingly, Malaysia is perhaps the only country in the entire Muslim world where ethnicity is directly linked to religion. Constitutionally, to be a Malay, one has to be a Muslim, and non-Muslim converts to Islam, after satisfying some constitutional requirements (such as “practicing Malay culture”), has the chance to qualify as a Malay; hence the common Malay term for new converts, masuk Melayu (enter into the Malay race). In many ways, it is understandable why the government has to support Islam. The official position of Islam in the Constitution, the role of the King (Monarch, Agong) and the Sultans as the “in-chargers” of the faith, the strength of the “missionary movement” (dakwah movement) amongst Malay masses, the entrenched nature of mosques and Islamic schools and a similar influence exercised by the religious scholars and jurists (ulama), as well as Malaysia’s growing economic prosperity that enables the political elite to exercise some leverage in the international leadership of the Muslim world, all suggests that

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the UMNO-led National Front government cannot but be seen to be pro-Islam in its policies and politics. And today, Islam has indeed been very much entrenched in Malaysian politics. As indicated earlier, the Mahathir administration’s pro-Islam orientation ever since the 1980s has been instrumental in paving the way for Malaysia’s image as a Muslim country of some repute. This was in sharp contrast to the position adopted by his predecessor, Tunku Abdul Rahman, whose commitment to build a secular Malaysia is too wellknown to require any elaboration here. In the words of the Tunku, “in a country like Malaysia, with its multiracial and multi-religious people, there is no room for an Islamic state”. Contrast this with Mahathir’s own declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state, prior to his retirement as the Prime Minister in 2003 (Hussin Mutalib 1993). Although such a declaration was not roundly supported even among many Malaysian Muslims, the symbolism it exudes to all — in Malaysia and elsewhere — was not to be missed. Since the 11 September 2001 episode in the United States, there has been a discernible shift of Middle East investments from the West to Malaysia, as Malaysia continue to exercise its international Islamic leadership via such fora as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the annual staging of the International Qur’an-recitation contest, and numerous other political, religious and economic initiatives. Domestically, precipitated by the objective of wooing Muslim support away from PAS generally and assure non-Muslims of the government’s hard stance against Muslim extremism specifically, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi officially launched what he called a new brand of Islam, namely, Islam Hadhari (“Civilisational Islam”) in 2003. His main message was the need

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to propagate an Islam that is modern, progressive and tolerant to all, especially to non-Muslims. Islam Hadhari also emphasises the Islamic values of hard work, efficiency, the pursuit of knowledge, universality, morality, and inclusiveness. His landslide victory in the 2004 General Election, where Islam Hadhari was a major campaign slogan, must suggest that the majority of Malaysians — Muslims and non-Muslims — did not support PAS’ version of Islam. This latter version was somewhat perceived by many to be overly strict and rigid, a perception accentuated by PAS’ desire to see Malaysia becoming an Islamic state, a policy that the UMNO-led coalition government totally rejects. Still, noting the affinity that Malays and Muslims attach to the symbolism that such a state entails, PM Badawi has directed the Islamic bureaucracy to spread his new approach to Islam. For the perspective, the notion of a modern, progressive and forward-looking Islam is nothing new for Muslims all over the world, and Muslim groups in Malaysia (such as ABIM and PAS) had broached such sentiments many years earlier. However, the alarm that was raised post-911 — with radical, extremist, Muslim terrorists rearing its ugly head worldwide — struck a chord among many segments of Malaysian society, including the majority of Muslims in the country. In his speech at the UMNO’s fifty-fifth Assembly in September 2004, PM Badawi elaborated on the broad principles of Islam Hadhari, which included the need for Muslims to master knowledge, and possess a modern outlook, which will enable them to lead a balanced life (wasatiyah) between this world and the next. In an attempt to assuage non-Muslims that his new Islamic model pose no threat to them, Badawi stated that, “Islam Hadhari … is not a new religion … not a new ideology; it’s just a new approach to bring Muslims towards progress that is

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blessed by Allah … It is making Muslims achieve excellence, glory and distinction … I have spoken to non-Muslim groups. I mentioned to them … that the principles are not contrary to their own religion”. Since 2006, the Prime Minister’s Department has printed copies of the Islam Hadhari booklet, and formed committees (mostly coordinated by JAKIM, the Department of Islamic Development) to spread this particular brand of Islam amongst Malaysians of all walks of life.

ISLAM IN MALAYSIA TODAY — AND FUTURE PROSPECTS Today, the Islamization process continue unabated in Malaysian society and politics. Although public discourses about Islam are not as vibrant as in Indonesia and Malaysian Muslims are not as divisive as Muslims in many countries, there continue to exist some tensions amongst different types of Muslim groups which articulates different variants of Islamic practice. All tend to claim to adopt a “progressive” Islam, an Islam that will enable Malaysian Muslims to better confront the vicissitudes of change in an era of globalization. Other than the continuing influence of PAS, ABIM, UMNO Youth and similar groups, new ones have joined in the debates about Islam, Muslims and their roles in a new Malaysia. Some of these groups include the Aliran movement that emphasizes the universalistic messages of Islam, the Sisters-inIslam organization that offers new approaches in interpreting Islamic rules about women and gender issues, and the Liberal Islam networks that have begun to sprout in many Internet discussion groups and blogs, calling for a more open and transformative approach to the syar’iah and Islamic jurisprudence in general.

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Other than the above tensions, the Faith is also subjected to other perennial stresses and strains. To start with, the country’s plural and “bi-modal” ethnic and religious complexion has meant that the State has to — as a matter of conscious policy — balance the competing interests of Muslims and non-Muslims. While Malays dominate politics, non-Malays (Chinese in particular) continue to hold a disproportionate advantage in the economy, albeit on a lesser scale, if compared to the pre-1969 period. Thus, UMNO, which leads the coalition government comprising both Muslims and non-Muslim political partners, is walking along a tightrope. While the party realizes the close identification of Malays to Islam, it cannot ignore the interests of the sizeable non-Malay, non-Muslim population, which has, from time to time, indicated its anxiety about the Islamization process in the country. Thus, controversial laws and official moves such as the regular calls for hudud laws by the Opposition Islamic Party (PAS) or the prosecution by Muslim religious enforcement officers of non-Muslim couple caught kissing in public or the publication of a guidebook on ethnic relations by the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia that blamed the DAP for the race riots of 13 May 1965, had all made non-Muslims unhappy, if not angry. In 2007, there was widespread unhappiness among many non-Malay civil and religious groups when the issue of Muslim apostasy came to the fore and the courts were perceived to be siding with the general Muslim objections to such an act. In fact, in some states, new laws were passed to criminalize Muslims who converted to other faiths. While the majority of Islamic scholars have held the view that apostasy is a crime punishable by death in an “Islamic state”, such a State probably does not exist today. From time to time, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran

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have indicated their desire to operate as Islamic states, but the practice of dynastic politics, the dominance of the military in State affairs, and the different Shia modalities of government respectively, makes it difficult to find any truly functioning Islamic state in the Muslim world today. Secondly, as an ethnic community in plural Malaysia, Malays have not always been united and cohesive. Granted that the traditional strength of dialect and regional loyalties (such as involving Kelantanese, Banjarese, and Javanese) are no longer as enduring, ethnic Malays seem divided in their support of the two main Malay-based political parties, UMNO and PAS. As indicated earlier, UMNO is widely seen to be more nationalistic and secular while PAS pursues the Islamic path as an alternative to UMNO’s brand of Islam. In the above regard, Malaysian Muslims are in a bind: many seem to admire the morality and egalitarianism of PAS and the piety of its leader (Tok Guru), Ustaz Nik Aziz Nik Mat, but are also wary about the party’s declaration to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state. Other Malays feel indebted to UMNO for championing their rights and interests through its numerous pro-bumiputra policies and programmes. This UMNO-PAS divide came to the fore in the 1990s, after Dr Mahathir’s sacking of Anwar Ibrahim. The result was the large cross-over of Malays to PAS when they voted for the PAS-led Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) in the General Election of 1999. This division of the Malay (Muslim) ground into two opposing sides, namely, between supporters of UMNO and PAS, tilted somewhat in favour of UMNO in the 2004 General Election, but one gets the sense that this tension will continue for many years to come, and will again re-surface during the time of General Elections and when Islam is perceived by Muslims as being threatened by non-Muslims.

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A relatively recent development was the spate of incidents in 2006–07 involving the issues of apostasy, the burial of Muslims in non-Muslim graves, and the critical voices that appeared in blogs and the Internet that criticized the government’s management of Islam. To appease the “Muslim ground”, Tun Najib Abdul Razak, the Deputy Prime Minister, made a statement that was first declared more than two decades ago by Dr Mahathir, namely, that Malaysia is an Islamic state. Thirdly, whether Malaysia is an Islamic state or not, continues to be problematic and a constant source of strain, even among local Muslims. While it is more than evident that there has been a perceptible increase in Islamism in Malaysia in recent times, consensus is very much lacking among the country’s Islamic scholars as to what exactly is an “Islamic state” and whether Malaysia actually qualify as one? On the surface, Malaysia has at least all the potential to indeed become one: the majority populace is Muslim, the governing elite is predominantly Muslim, the country is a constitutional monarchy with Islam as the official religion, the faith is inseparable from Malay identity and culture, and the country’s economic progress and political stability has made Malaysia a model for the Muslim world. In this latter regard, huge development projects costing billions of funds were declared by the Prime Minister in 2006 to transform the southern, eastern and northern regions into mega economic zones, some of which have attracted investments from the Middle East. But the country’s realpolitik makes it improbable for such a state to be said to function in Malaysia today as officially claimed. As indicated earlier, while an overwhelming majority of Malays are Muslim and are proud to be identified as such, electoral results have indicated their very reservations, if not

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disagreement, about their country’s moves towards such a state. This is manifest, for example, in their distancing from PAS, the party that espouses an Islamic state clarion call, in the General Elections. The lack of knowledge about Islam, especially its more universalistic principles, among non-Muslims, and even among many Muslims, adds to the problem. Recent extremist activities of some radical Muslim groups have also alarmed the majority of Malaysians, including Muslims themselves. Events in 2006, such as the much-publicized episode of the death of the Mount Everest climber, whose Muslim faith was the subject of challenge by his Hindu family upon his death, sparked a wide debate about the guaranteed position of nonMuslim religions in Malaysia. As it happened, this Indian public personality was buried according to Muslim rites after official documents were produced of his secret conversion to Islam, but his widow had brought the matter to the court claiming that he was still a Hindu and wanted to bury him according to Hindu customs. Her unsuccessful claim had raised concerns among many non-Muslims about the future sanctity of their faiths in the country. In late 2007, a similar petition — this time by a Christian husband was lodged in the High Court after the Islamic Council claimed that his wife had converted to Islam. Also in 2007, some Hindu activists, working under the umbrella group Hindraf, were arrested under the Internal Security Act (which denies them an open court trial) after they mobilized a few thousand Hindus to demonstrate against what they claimed to be discrimination against Hindus and their temples. Essentially then, the Malay-led BN government must have realized that any radical transformation of the nature of government to one that veers towards an Islamic state model, might actually work to the detriment of Malays as a whole.

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This is because UMNO’s otherwise secular and Malay-first predisposition, as well as the Malays’ current socio-economic and political advantages under the bumiputra policy would have to go, since Islam does not condone favouritism of any kind, and in fact condemns ethnic nationalism (‘assabiyyah’ ). Furthermore, if Malaysia were to become an Islamic state, Islamic values, laws and worldviews will have to supersede those of ethnic, secular or nationalistic ones and this demands changes to the Constitution. Hence, the Malaysian government has been quick to act, through the Internal Security Act, even against radical Muslim groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), which had made frequent demands favouring greater Islamization of the Malaysian state. All the above stresses and strains in Malaysian Islam notwithstanding, it can be conceded that Malaysia, under its Muslim political leadership, has a relatively admirable record of democratic rule and economic finesse that has enabled the country to modernise and prosper. These qualities, if added to the general peace that it has delivered to its multiracial and multi-religious population, offer great promise for Islam in the country, an Islam that can serve as a model for the Muslim world at large.

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Chapter 4

Brunei Islam has had a long history in Brunei, having reached its shores from about the thirteenth century, if not earlier. From Chinese historical records, Brunei was then called Poli (or Polo). The discovery of ancient Chinese coins in Brunei’s Kota Batu region and the sending of “goodwill goods” (ivory and spices) by the Brunei royalty to China during the Sung dynasty, reinforced the view that Brunei had established trading links with China and the international community at large during that early period of its history. Other historical artifacts, such as the classical poem, the Syair Awang Semaun, also recorded the cock fighting victory of the Brunei king (Awang Alak Betaar) over that of the Majapahit king (Raden Angsuka), suggesting diplomatic links with Majapahit, then a regional power. Awang Alak Betaar was reported to have converted to Islam by the Muslim Sultan of Johore (old Singapore) after Betaar’s visit there and after his subsequent marriage to the Johore princess in the 1360s. Taking on his new name of Sultan Muhammad Shah, the Brunei Sultan soon encountered an Arab trader from Mecca, Sharif Ali, who was said to have taught the Sultan about Islam. When Sharif Ali himself was later installed as Brunei’s third king in 1426, he used the authority to consolidate the Islamization process that was first started by Sultan Muhammad Shah. 41

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Many scholars, however, opined that it was during the reign of Sultan Bolkiah, Brunei’s fifth Sultan, in the sixteenth century (1485–1524), that Brunei reached the apex of its Islamic glory, having by then also taking over the role of Malacca as the centre of Islam in Southeast Asia. Under his leadership, Brunei expanded its territorial boundaries to include what is presently the Philippines, Sabah and Sarawak. His marriages with the princesses of the conquered regions (such as Sulu and Manila) also helped the spread of Islam in this part of the world. The Spanish’s arrival in the Philippines, however, and its insistence that Brunei allowed the spread of Christianity in the country, led to the Brunei-Spanish war, which ended with the brief Spanish conquest in 1578, before Brunei regained its territory about three months later. The seventeenth century, however, witnessed Brunei’s decline after a series of rivalries within the ruling royalty. This decline was exploited by the British when James Brooke became the new ruler of the kingdom and Sarawak was governed by the White Rajahs. Brunei’s foreign affairs was also placed under the jurisdiction of the British Queen. The country’s fortunes turned for the better yet again in the twentieth century when Sultan Omar Saifuddin was installed as the twenty-eighth Ruler in 1950. Under his leadership, the country managed to assume sovereignty from Britain. Recent records indicated that the Sultan had originally planned to join the Malaysian federation in 1963. However, the earlier revolt against the monarchy in December 1962 by Yassin Affandi and his armed rebels and the opposition from the Brunei Peoples’ Party (Parti Rakyat Brunei) led by A. M. Azahari, which had won a large majority in the 1962 General Election, led him to abort the merger plan; instead, he opted to become a British dependency. With the help of British troops from Singapore, the rebellion was quashed and for many years since then, the

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Sultan has clamped down on any democratic experiment in the tiny oil-rich State. That rebellion not only led to his declaration of a state of emergency but the banning of the Parti Rakyat Brunei, the ammendments to the 1959 Constitution and the abolishment of parliament. From a British protectorate since 1888, Brunei gained independence in 1984. Soon after, the country adopted the official name of Negara Brunei Darussalam (Brunei, The Abode of Peace). Today, Brunei’s oil and gas wealth has again made the country very prosperous. With a national income per head of $26,800 (2006 estimate), the Sultan and his family — which has a near monopoly of power in the State — governs all aspects of life in the kingdom, including matters relating to Islam. The reigning Sultan, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Wadaulah — henceforth to be referred to as Sultan Bolkiah — is the twentyninth in the royal line, having ascended the throne in 1967 and crowned a year later as the country’s Sultan. In 2004, he reopened Brunei’s parliament and amended the Constitution to enable up to fifteen elected Members of Parliament and twentyone appointed ones to sit in the Legislature. In spite of this move towards political reform, the Sultan has ruled by decree and assumes multiple State roles as the Supreme Ruler of the State: Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Finance Minister, and Head of Islam. The country has long adopted Islam as the official religion. The overwhelming majority of Muslims (some 70 per cent) are ethnic Malays. Ethnic Chinese constitutes the largest minority with about 16 per cent of the total population of about 400,000 people; other minorities are the Muruts, Dusuns and Ibans. Christianity and Buddhism are the religions of many of these minorities, and there is a large, non-Muslim expatriate community, most of whom worked in the oil and gas industries.

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The Shar’iah Courts co-exist with the secular Supreme Court and has jurisdiction over Islamic laws in the country. The brand of Islam practiced is exclusively the Sunni (Shafi’i) type of School. The fusion of Islamic traditionism with a Sultanate system of governance, resulted in the formal adoption of the principle of ‘Malay Islamic Monarchy’ as the official state ideology and as the principal basis for national integration (Md. Zain 1998). Such a version of Islamic governance — headed by a monarch who is constitutionally acknowledged as the head and protector of the religion — is meant to convey the message that a monarchical form of government does not contradict with the Islamic precept of rule. The Sultan has used rising oil revenues not only to bolster a tax-free social system, but promote Islam through the granting of huge subsidies to numerous national projects and programmes aimed at buttressing further Islam in the state. These include facilities for Hajj (pilgrimage), and the building of mosques and other Islamic institutions, such as the well patronized Department of Religious Affairs. In managing Islamic affairs, the Sultan taps the expertise of a group of advisers, including the Pengiran Bendahara (Wazir), Pengiran Paduka Tuan (Cheteria Empat), and Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja who, assisted by the Minister of Religious Affairs, is the overall coordinator on Islamic matters. All these policies and other initiatives have made Islam to be quite inseparable from the daily lives of Bruneian Muslims today. The stability and prosperity of the kingdom, however, have been under some strain in recent years. The Asian economic crisis in 1997 has shocked the country as assets and shares were hit by the crash. In 1998, the Sultan’s younger brother, Prince Jefri, caught international media limelight when he incurred massive debts in a financial scandal (the Amedeo conglomerate collapse) costing a few billion dollars. The scandal has estranged

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his relationship with his elder brother, the reigning Sultan. The country’s heavy reliance on one principal commodity — oil — has led experts to advice the Sultan to diversify the island’s economy; hence, the Sultan’s relatively recent decision to divest the country’s resources in non-oil products. Other challenges confronting Islam in Brunei include the general uneasiness of non-Muslims (the Chinese minority and expatriate community as a whole) about Brunei’s pro-Islam and pro-Malay policies. At a time when the country is increasingly plugged into the global economic architecture, calls for greater democracy have begun to be heard in private circles from among some local Muslim elites. The Sultan seems more than aware of these populist desires, and is revisiting, albeit slowly, the old political issues that have long been regarded as taboo for ordinary Bruneians.

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Chapter 5

Singapore Singapore 2000 Population Census indicates that there are about 15 per cent Muslims in the Republic, 14 per cent of which are ethnic Malays. In numbers, this comprises about 450,000 in a population of 4 million people. The remaining 1 per cent comes from ethnic groups such as Arabs and Indians. The Republic’s ethnic composition has been, by and large, consistent for many decades — with the majority Chinese taking up 77 per cent and the other minority community, the Indians, 7 per cent. The male-female ratio of the Muslim population is about even, just like the Chinese. Singapore Muslims consists of quite a number of dialect sub-groups — such as Boyanese, Bugis, Javanese, and Malays with Indian and Arab descent, as well as Chinese converts — but there is a high level of unity since these groups generally regard themselves as belonging to the Muslim community. There has been a steady increase of Chinese converts to Islam, but their numbers remain small. The majority of ethnic Malays are Sunni Muslims. They are also “born Muslims” since they profess the religion of their ancestors who were generally Muslim when they first arrived at Singapore’s shores in the early centuries. In terms of geographical settlement, Malays (Muslims) are spread evenly throughout Singapore. This is the result of the Government policy of 47

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imposing ethnic quotas in public residential estates, where about 90 per cent of Singaporeans live. The Republic’s small size and its rapid industrialization growth, has made the entire Singapore island (measuring 699.4 sq. km., including 63 offshore islands) a modern “city-state”, with all ethnic groups residing in mixed neighbourhoods. Gone are the days when ethnic groups were located in residential ethnic enclaves such as Chinatown (for Chinese), Geylang Serai (Malays) and Serangoon (Indians) and were isolated from each other. Hence, Muslims today live side-by-side with other Singaporeans of different ethnic and religious backgrounds in a modern, cosmopolitan environment, an environment that invariably also shapes the role of Islam in the Republic. Although for historical reasons, the language of the Malays — Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) — has been adopted as Singapore’s National Language, the Republic’s internationalist and global orientation has made English the most widely used and most important language in the country, even among many Muslims, particularly the younger generation.

HISTORY OF MALAYS AND ISLAM Many historians have concluded that, around AD 1300, a Malay settlement came into existence in this island, then known as Temasik. This Malay kingdom flourished given its contacts with the great Javanese empire of Majapahit, and also what is now Thailand, as evidenced by archaelogical findings. Intra-royalty rivalry, however, led to the flight of Temasek’s king, Parameswara, from Singapore and the gradual decline of Temasik as a thriving port-city. By the eighteenth century, the island-city became part of the flourishing Johore-Riau empire.

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Singapore’s re-birth began with the arrival of British colonialism in 1819. Representing the East India Company, Stamford Raffles negotiated with the Temenggong and Sultan Hussein of Johore to establish a British foothold in the island. From 1819–24, the control of the island was jointly shared by the British Resident, and the Sultan and the Temenggong, and from 1824, it was ruled as a Crown Colony. In 1959, Singapore gained full internal self-government status after an agreement with the British government. Singapore Malays (Muslims) were left much to themselves under British colonialism. In the realm of education, for instance, Raffles’ educational policy was mainly targeted at the higher echelons of the Malay aristocratic class. A historian, G. G. Hough, observed that Raffles’ idea was “to improve the standard of education in the native languages, and to give in addition some instruction in English and in Western science to those who seemed best able to profit by it. … His idea was to educate the country from the top downwards.” One of the consequences of this policy bias in favour of educating the Malay aristocracy is that ordinary ethnic Malays, when compared to the majority Chinese and minority Indians, were to occupy a lower socioeconomic status post-Independence. A similar orientation by successive British officials, and an equal lack of interest on the part of Malay Sultans to educate their Malay subjects, exacerbated Malay educational underachievement. In the realm of religion, specifically Islam, Raffles’ attitude was ambivalent, tilting more towards a prejudiced belief of the superiority of Christianity vis-à-vis Islam and the need to protect Western imperial interests. In general, the British colonial administration misconstrued Islam as a mere veneer of Malay ethnic and cultural practices. Anti-British sentiments led to the “Sepoy Mutiny” in 1915, that saw a

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section of the locally-based Indian Fifth Light Infantry Unit (most of whom were Punjabi Muslims from India) revolting against the British officers. The result was about forty deaths, mostly British, and the execution of thirty-six mutineers after a court trial. This event partly explained the formation of the Mohamedan Advisory Board, aimed at regulating the Islamic activities of local Muslims. Singapore’s location at the crossroads of international trade and the vibrancy of Muslim reformist (“progressive”) teachings that were influenced by Middle East reformists such as al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, helped to turn the island into a thriving cosmopolitan center by the early twentieth century. Islamic education, Malay journalism and Malay nationalism all combined in making Singapore a focal point for Muslims in the region at that time. The first Malay newspaper in Southeast Asia, namely, the Jawi Peranakan, and the first Islamic scholarly journal, the Al-Imam, both took off from Singapore in 1876 and 1906 respectively. So too was the first Malay “political party” in the region, the Kesatuan Melayu Singapura (KMS, or Singapore Malay Association), launched in 1925. This KMS was, arguably, the precursor of the eventual establishment of the UMNO party in Malaya in 1946. The fate of Singapore Muslims took a twist in 1963 when Singapore joined the federation with Malaysia, making them an ethnic majority in Malaysia. However, their jubilation was shortlived. Barely two years in the federation, Singapore was booted out — and Singapore Malays reverted to their minority status again with its attendant problems and challenges as an ethnic minority community. Since the Republic’s Independence in 1965 until today, the progress of Singapore Muslims has been mixed. On the one hand, given the Republic’s modernizing environment and general prosperity, local Muslims have also benefited as

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other Singaporeans. If compared to pre-Independence days, Muslim Singaporeans are staying in better housing, more Muslim students (Malays in the main) have better education, and more Malays are now in the “middle class” category. Since 1966, Islamic affairs in Singapore have been governed by the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). This Act enabled the establishment of MUIS, the Islamic Council of Singapore, which oversees Islamic matters and activities in the Republic. These include the administration of mosques and Islamic schools (madrasah), the collection of religious tithes (zakat), the certification of religiously permissible products (halal), the coordination of pilgrimage (Hajj), and the development of Muslim endowment trusts and properties (wakf ). Today, with support from the Muslim public — who contributes to MUIS financially via. the automatic deduction of their monthly salaries and zakat contributions — MUIS has become a professionally managed, multi-million dollar, modern statutory board. Other than MUIS, there are other religious and educational institutions that render a variety of services to local Muslims. The Shar’iah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages cater to Muslim legal and matrimonial needs. Mendaki (Council for Muslim Development), which, like MUIS, similarly receives Muslim funding via the above salary-deduction scheme from Muslim workers, offers a range of social and educational services to Malays such as study awards, bursaries and tuition schemes and other social support amenities. Malay/Muslim NGOs, such as AMP, LBKM, Jamiyah, Pertapis, and other organizations, also contributed their share in tackling the lingering problems besetting local Muslims, such as delinquent youths, single parents, drug addiction, and divorces. While the long years of fighting the high rates of drug addiction are showing some promise (the figure in 2005 was

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16.8 per cent), Muslim divorces continue to be highest among all religious communities in the Republic. More Malays not only married young but also divorced early and this problem of “dysfunctional families” caught the attention of Prime Minister (PM) Lee who highlighted it in his “National Day Rally Speech” in 2005. In 2004, the average duration of Muslim marriages was 9.8 years (Mendaki 2006); this means that about one in four Muslim marriages leads to divorces, a trend which worries community leaders since pre-marriage and post-marriage courses are regularly offered to newly married couples. In terms of socio-economic profile, the number of Muslims in the higher occupational echelons is conspicuously small, with a mere 2.9 per cent holding administrative and managerial jobs and 4 per cent categorized as “Professionals” (Singapore 2000 Population Census). While in some occupations — such as lawyers, airline pilots and medical doctors — the Muslim presence is increasingly felt — Singapore’s highly competitive life culture, reinforced by its emphasis on meritocracy for vertical mobility, might render many ordinary Malays as the future “underclass”, as this category could be most affected with the problem of structural unemployment. If not redressed, in a globalized world — manifest by an international economy that the Singapore government labelled as a “Knowledge Based Economy” (KBE) — not only will inappropriately skilled Muslims face the real prospect of being unemployed but will also be potentially unemployable (Hussin 2005). In the area of education, it appears that minority Muslims still have to catch up with other communities. Despite some excellent individual performances of Muslim students in national examinations (PSLE, GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels) — in 2007, a Malay girl broke a fourteen year national PSLE record — only one out of four Malay students qualifies for admission to the

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polytechnics and higher levels. More improvements are needed in Mathematics and Science subjects, subjects of great relevance to a competitive world economy. Furthermore, while the proportion of Malay students passing the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams have been improving (Mendaki 2006) they still lagged behind Chinese and Indian students. The 2000 Population Census revealed that only 2 per cent of Malays had university qualifications if compared to 17 per cent for Indians and 13 per cent for Chinese, and 20 per cent of Malays were listed as having “no qualification” at all. Lesser education will invariably mean lower and lesser paying jobs, and lesser incomes can lead to a diminished self-esteem for the community. The 2005 General Household Survey also confirmed that the gap in educational achievement between Malays and non-Malays is still there.

MUSLIM MINORITY ASSERTIVENESS Significantly, it seems that the Muslims’ increasing zeal to preserve their ethno-religious and community identity vis-àvis mainstream Singaporean national identity, has led to some unease from the Republic’s avowedly secular Government. Events of 11 September 2001 exacerbated the Malay-Muslim plight, although the Government has taken pains to assure the community that their increased “Islamicity” is not the problem, but rather, the religious extremism of some fringe elements of the community. Still, persistent assertions of their own Malay/Muslim identity, against the backdrop of the Singapore-supported “global war on terror”, continues to attract the government’s attention. Since the 1990s, there were a series of issues and government policies that were objected to by local Muslims and they included the following: the proposal to change some

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aspects of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA); the proposal for a compulsory national education system, which, if implemented fully, were percieved by local Muslims as threatening the future of Islamic religious schools (madrasahs); and the government’s refusal to permit Muslim girls to wear the headscarf (tudung) in public schools. Highly contentious and widely debated in the local media, these illustrate the Singaporean Muslim ethno-religious push for greater governmental acceptance of their Malay/Muslim aspirations vis-à-vis. the national polity (Hussin 2005). Given their indigenous status to this country, and their “special position” in the Republic’s Constitution (Article 89: 152; 22), it makes it difficult for the Government to ignore their plight and aspirations. Complicating further MuslimGovernment relations was the revelation that since the late 1980s, Singapore Muslims have become more “religious”, evident in the vibrancy of religious programmes in mosques (masjid), religious schools (madrasahs) and Islamic organizations. To the governing elite, it appears that greater Islamic consciousness will mean greater distancing of Singaporean Muslims from mainstream national developments. Recent international events — most notably the 11 September 2001 debácle — and the negative stereotypes that Western media often caricature Muslims (as extremists, fanatics, terrorists and religious zealots) — has deepened the Government’s scrutiny of its Muslim population. Elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew has raised this concern on quite a few occasions, both locally and abroad. In 2002, Lee said that the immediate threats to security in Asia “come from non-state terrorist Islamic groups”. He added that the Singapore government received this information from the thirteen arrested members of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) group that were caught and detained in Singapore in January

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2002 and charged for planning to bomb U.S. and Western embassies. Local Muslim leaders themselves, who traditionally have acted upon the cues from the governing elite, also decided to echo the concerns. Not only did they publicly condemn such terrorist plans, they decided to initiate measures aimed at checking the growth of such religious extremism in their midst. In 2002, more than 100 Muslim leaders from organizations such as Jamiyah, Pergas, MUIS, CCIS, Muhammadiyah and mosques issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the JI activities. In 2003, Pergas hosted a “Convention of Ulama” where speakers emphasized the spirit of moderation in Islam and criticized extremist behaviour within the Muslim community. The convention later published its report titled Moderation in Islam in the context of the Muslim community in Singapore. In the same year, Muslim religious teachers formed the Religious Rehabilitation Group aimed at counseling JI detainees and their families about “proper” Islam. In December 2005, MUIS and Pergas developed an accreditation system (the Asatizah Recognition Scheme) meant to register qualified religious teachers, thereby signalling to the local Muslim community that they should not study Islam from Islamic teachers whose names do not appear in the register. By 2006, other Muslim organizations, notably CCIS (Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies), reactivated inter-faith dialogues. One such dialogue session in 2006, entitled “Understanding Islam”, was attended by more than 400 grassroots activists, mostly non-Muslims. Of late, it appears that the Singapore government has been bent to reconstruct Islam from within — encouraging cultural as against “political Islam”, seen in the new kinds of official dialogues about Islam conducted with local Muslims. These were mostly coordinated by MUIS, which wanted to promote

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what it sees as ‘moderate’ and ‘progressive’ Islam amongst local Muslims. Perhaps, with this in mind, in 2007, the Minister-incharge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim announced that MUIS have decided to combine three of the six full-time madrasahs into a “Joint Madrasah System”. This initiative was intended to enable these madrasahs to receive better funding, quality teachers and a curricula that will include both religious and secular subjects to keep it more in line with the national education system. MUIS would also inject management and professional expertise in managing the madrasahs. Although three other madrasahs refused to join, given their reservations about the new madrasah system, the door is open to them to do so in the future. Interestingly, while the debates about “liberal Islam” and “reformist Islam” in Indonesia and Malaysia have not been echoed substantively in Singapore, the Singapore government has been encouraging a more open, inclusive and tolerant Islam for its Muslim population. The United States’ increasing attention to the Muslim communities in Singapore and the region as a whole post-911, also explain the Singapore government’s calls for greater integration of Singaporean Muslims into the larger mainstream society. By and large, it appears that the Singapore government’s management of the “minority problem”, which favours the accommodation of ethno-religious heterogeneity within a national identity and consciousness, has worked well. It has generally led to stable majority-minority relations from among the Republic’s polyglot multiracial population. In 2006, the government formed a ministerial committee on ‘community engagement’ chaired by Deputy PM Wong Kan Seng, to foster inter-ethnic and inter-religious social cohesion. Convinced of its effective management of Muslim minority issues, and the huge

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potential of Muslim investment from overseas, the government has stepped up its drive to lure Middle Eastern (Muslim) capital and related funds and financing schemes into the Republic. Large investments and other financial contracts have begun to pour in from such countries as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. The Singapore government also approved applications to establish Islamic banks, Islamic insurance and related financial institutions. Big Singapore companies are also investing and offering their expertise in the Middle East. Domestically, the official adoption of “multiracialism” as a major cornerstone of Singapore’s nation-building agenda and the strict penalties that await religious extremists (through legal sanctions such as the Religious Harmony Act and the Internal Security Act) also helps to buffer Singapore from racial and religious extremism. At the height of the global Muslim anti-Danish wrath, brought about by the publication of Prophet Muhammad’s cartoon caricatures, PM Lee Hsien Loong condemned the caricatures as being insensitive to Muslim feelings. In 2006, two Internet “bloggers” were charged under the Sedition Act for writing anti-Malay racist comments and another was called up by the police for anti-Christian caricatures in the websites. These tough actions and other policies supplement other existing official initiatives to integrate the different ethnic and religious communities into a united and cohesive nationality. These policy initiatives include areas such as residential housing (where ethnic quotas are imposed), defense (such as the obligatory National Service conscription and “Total Defense” public awareness programme), social (such as the “Racial Harmony Day” and “Inter-Racial and InterReligious Confidence Circles”), and politics (such as the Group Representation Constituency or Team MPs’ ethnic electoral rule

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for contesting the General Elections). Taken together, these proactive measures, despite their limitations, have prevented the island Republic from experiencing ethnic and religious turbulence as happened in quite a few countries with sizeable Muslim minority populations.

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Chapter 6

Thailand and Philippines The issues facing the Muslim minorities in Thailand and the Philippines are, in some ways, quite similar. In both countries, Muslims constitute a relatively small population of about 5 to 7 per cent of the total population, are geographically located in the poorer southern part of the country, are proud of their identity and civilization, and have been struggling for some form of autonomy from the central government, without success, for many years. Historical neglect, low socio-economic status, religious antagonism, and violent separatist uprisings that have cost thousands of lives, all combined to explain the continuing plight of minority Muslims in these two countries, a plight not shared by other Muslim minorities in other parts of Southeast Asia.

MUSLIMS IN THAILAND Thai Muslims have had a long history, stretching a few centuries, ever since the kingdom of Patani became a center of Islam around the late fourteenth century. In the seventeenth century, the success of Persian Muslim traders caught the attention of the Thai king, Pracau Songtham (1602–27) who appointed Muslims as some of his advisers. The fall of Muslim Patani to the Siamese monarch in 1789 led to the ethnic and religious 59

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segmentation of Thai Muslims, vis-à-vis the Thai nation (Che Man 1990; Kettani 1986). At a time when all Thais were subjected to a common citizenship and to the official Thai religion of Theravada Buddhism, Muslims in the south, constituting about 7 per cent of the total Thai population of about 65 million, were clamouring for autonomy in matters of Islam and Malay culture. What ensued was decades of tension and conflict with the Thai state, which adopted an assimilationist policy in dealing with the “Muslim problem”, especially in the four southern provinces where Muslims are in the majority: Patani, Yala, Satun and Narathiwat. The close proximity of these provinces to Malaysia — where the Muslim majority generally empathize with the plight of their Thai brethren — accentuates the tension. Adding to this tension is the stark differences of language, ethnicity, culture and religion between Thai Muslims and other Thais throughout the more than seventy provinces nationwide. The overwhelmingly Buddhist ethos that permeates the life of the Thais, and the insistence that Muslims also follow the “Thai way”, contributed to the alienation of the local Muslim minority. Annexed and incorporated into the Thai state in 1902 under treatises signed by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and the colonial powers, the Muslims have since been struggling for their rights and identity as Muslim Thais. The King’s assimilationist and interventionist policies had sidelined the traditional role of Thai Malay rulers, whose numerous appeals to the British to help their plight were ignored, since the British were engaged in a serious rivalry with the French at that time. The signing of the AngloSiamese Treaty in 1909 exacerbated the Muslim plight since it enabled the Siamese administration to penetrate into Muslim

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regions in the south. Over time, the centuries-old Muslim laws and other cultural practices were subjected to the centralized Thai legal system to the detriment of many Muslims. The military coup of 1932 that brought an end to absolute monarchy — and other coups that followed — had momentarily ushered in a mood of anticipation from the Muslims that their long suffering would come to an end. But the coming to power of the pro-assimilationist, military-trained Prime Minister, Field Marshall Phibul Songkram in 1938, quashed such hopes. In fact, Islamic law was abolished in favour of mainstream Buddhist law. Nationalist and religious (Buddhist) sentiments not only led to the renaming of Siam as Thailand in 1939 but to the subsequent establishment of the National Culture Commission. This Commission decided to impose Thai culture and identity upon all citizens, including the Muslims. What ensued was a period of Thai-Muslim antagonism, which included the Muslim rebellion under the leadership of the prominent ‘alim, Haji Sulong. However, his detention and subsequent mysterious disappearance put a check to the Muslim quest for cultural and religious autonomy in the southern provinces. Muslim-State relations saw some positive developments in the 1940s. A government decree had allowed Muslims to seek recourse to the Islamic courts in resolving their inheritance and matrimonial disputes. More promising was the radical transformation of Thai society since the 1950s, which, to some extent, had the effect of improving life in the southern provinces. These included the restoration of the monarchy (King Bhumibol, Rama IX) which vouched to uphold the three pillars of Thai society (Nation, Religion, and King); the rapid rise of capitalism and urbanization in the cities; and especially the government’s new integration strategies during the 1957–73 period. This latter strategy, though conducted under PM Sarit’s

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authoritarian rule, saw the launching of socio-economic development programmes in the poorer regions of the country, including the Muslim south. At least for the Muslims, many of their pondok religious schools and mosques were either restored or upgraded. These programmes had received Muslim endorsement, especially from the new, secular educated Malay political elite, who by then, had made inroads into the Thai parliament. By the mid-1980s, and under the pro-growth policies of General Prem Tinasulanond, there were more than 2,000 mosques and several hundred madrasahs, most of which are located in the four southern provinces. For a while, things were looking good for the Muslims. During the period of democratization and civil society in the late 1980s — characterized by fragmented parties, the paradox of urban political power and the demands for constitutional reforms after the 1997 economic meltdown — some Muslim politicians were particularly active in the national parliament, including two who held the influential posts of Speaker and Foreign Minister. Their high political profiles and the unceasing efforts of Muslim religious teachers and Muslim NGOs led to the establishment of quasi-national institutions, which had gone some way to support Muslim needs and aspirations. These institutions include the Islamic Religious Committee Council (IRCC), the National Council for Muslims (appointed by royal proclamation), and the Provincial Courts. Today, however, uncertainty of their future still haunts the Muslim community, especially in the southern provinces. It appears that Thai Muslims are divided in their attitudes towards the State. On the one hand, many Thai Muslims have resigned to the fact that separatist goals will lead to nowhere, and that the better option is to integrate within a Buddhist nation that will ensure some preservation of their ethno-religious identity and

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aspirations. On the other hand, however, many seem unhappy with the status quo. There is still no formal Islamic judicial system in the southern provinces (the official role of Dato’ Yuthitam or Muslim judge is still subjected to State regulation), local ulama continue to complain about the “secularization” of the pondok, and other Muslims have bemoaned the gradual loss of their Malay language and culture. Apparently, the long years of distrust with the State and the armed forces, and the relative poverty of the Muslim regions in the south, have not helped the situation. What was to accentuate the problem was a series of recent police brutalities against alleged Muslim terrorists, which provokes Muslim violence, and arguably, strengthens separatist sentiments. Led by such groups like the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), the Pattani National Liberation Front, the Sabilillah (“Path of God”), and the Patani Islamic Mujahidin Group (PMIP), these radical groups, though small in number and strength, have nonetheless wrecked havoc to the stability of Thailand in general. The fact of the matter is thousands have died in the conflict, with no end in sight. In 2004, dozens of Muslims were killed in the Kru Se mosque and many more died of suffocation when they were piled up like sardines on top of each other in a military truck, leading to an international outcry. In 2006, Prime Minister Thaksin, although granted emergency powers to govern the south, conceded that the situation in the Muslim provinces was no longer easy to control. For a while, the government acknowledged that the lawlessness there (bombings, murders and retaliations from both Muslims and the armed forces) could only be resolved by economic development and cooperation from all affected parties, including the role that could be played by neighbouring Malaysia.

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In the above regard, unfortunately, Thai authorities have alleged that Malaysia has been a sanctuary for Thai Muslim separatists, a charge denied by Malaysia, which in turn accused Thailand of seeking a scapegoat to justify its repressive actions against the Muslims. Meanwhile, a National Reconciliation Commission was established in March 2005, and dialogues were later held with Muslim leaders to try to put an end to this long-running conflict, but thus far, to no avail.

MUSLIMS IN THE PHILIPPINES Islam reached the shores of present day Philippines around the fourteenth century, mostly through Arab traders and missionaries. After Makhdum Karim and his missionary group landed in the archipelago in 1380, other Arab traders and missionaries followed suit. By the fifteenth century, a Sultanate of Sulu was established, with a large empire that controlled much of international trade plying the Sulu seas. Gradually, thousands of Muslims converged and settled in the south, specifically, in the present Mindanao region, with its network of islands (Mastura 1984). Colonialism — Spanish and American — shaped much of Filipino history, including the position and role of Islam in the country. Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in 1521 was marked by his planting of a wooden cross on a hill and henceforth declaring that all lands of the archipelago (renamed as Las Islas Felipinas) would now become the property of Spain. His planting of the cross also signalled Spain’s Christianity mission in the Philippines, which arguably, sowed the seeds of Christian-Muslim conflict. His introduction of a new land policy (the “Regaline doctrine”) had the effect of transforming the centuries-old practice of traditional land ownership and tenancy belonging to indigenous groups and tribes, including the Muslim minority.

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Denied and deprived of these ancestral lands, Muslims, who were then living in poor communes (barangay) under the leadership of their headman (datu), were rendered homeless as they saw their own lands being taken over by others. The policies of subsequent American and Commonwealth governments (from Quezon in 1936 to Marcos’s martial law decree in 1971) accentuated the Muslim plight. Under the “Treaty of Paris”, Spain ceded Philippines to the United States, after which the latter introduced a range of Land Acts (such as the 1903, 1905, 1913, and 1919 Acts) which, among others, stipulated that all lands not legally registered would automatically belong to the State and to claimants who possessed land titles. The majority of Muslims with ancestral land titles did not see the necessity to have proper legal documentation of such titles, and suffered as a consequence, when these documentary evidences were required by the courts. The subsequent imposition of the Torrens’ system of land ownership resulted in the siphoning off of more lands belonging to the indigenous groups, some of whom occupied territories that were rich with natural resources. In addition, the American abolition of the institution of the Sultanate in 1915 (via. the “Carpenter Agreement”) deprived the Muslims an institutional base and network by which to galvanize anticolonial resistance, via. the leadership of the Sultans (Samuel Tan 2003). In sum, the lack of legal advice, abject poverty, and the belief that their ancestral rights to land needed no registration led many Muslims to lose their lands. Subsequent Presidential administrations (from Aquino to Arroyo) had tried to remedy the problem. Many land reform programmes, aimed at acknowledging ancestral land tenureship (such as the CARP by President Aquino in 1987) were launched. But Filipino politics — characterized in the main by family

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landlordism, patron-client relationship, and the power of big business — did not help Muslims and other indigenous minorities to reclaim their land rights. The recognition by the Philippines Constitution of 1986 of the “Regalian doctrine”, exacerbated the problem. Way back in 1924, the Moros, in anticipation of Filipino Independence and realizing the probable worsening of their plight as a minority in a newly independent Filipino nation, had actually petitioned the United States’s Congress. The aim was to allow them to be under American protection once Independence was declared. If this was deemed unacceptable, they had broached the alternative of an independent “Moro nation” (Bangsamoro). But when Independence became a reality for the new Republic in 1946, their wishes came to nothing (Tan 2003; Mastura 1984). What was to exacerbate their plight post-1946 was a series of policies and politics that had the effect of marginalizing them further from the Filipino body politic. These include the following: migration and resettlement of Christians (especially from north and central Visayas) into Muslim areas in the south; the transfer of administrative and bureaucratic leadership from Muslims to non-Muslims in Muslim areas; the large scale agrobusiness investments of capitalists that took up large portions of Muslim lands; and intra-Muslim disunity in representing their interests to the national government. As an illustration, the wide-scale migration of Christians to Mindanao had reduced the Muslim population there from a high 70 per cent at the turn of the century to a mere 18 per cent by 1990. Consequently, Muslims in Mindanao became minorities and tenants on their very own ancestral lands. Failing to secure their rights peacefully, some of their leaders mobilized the Muslims into an armed resistance movement against the State.

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The modern manifestation of this movement can be traced to 1 May 1968 with the launching of the “Mindanao Independence Movement” by former Cotabato Governor, Datu Utong Matalam. Since then, other like-minded groups were formed, beginning with the underground political front of the separatist movement, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1969, headed by Nur Misuari. Splinter groups from the MNLF soon emerged, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Hashim Selamat, the MNLF-RG (Reformist Group) headed by Pundato, the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO) by Rashid Lucman, and the Abu Sayyaf guerilla group, led by Aburajak Janjalani. Since many of the leaders of these breakaway factions studied in the Middle East, some had solicited financial and political support from Middle East countries in support of their struggles. When President Marcos declared Martial Law in 1973, he exploited the perceived threat posed by the MNLF as one of the reasons justifying his declaration. However, badly hit by the oil crises in 1973–74, Marcos agreed to the mediation efforts by some oil-producing Middle East countries, notably Libya and Saudi Arabia. This led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 in Libya, whereupon autonomy was to be granted to thirteen Muslim provinces in the south. However, the failure to make progress after the controversial referendums in 1977 and 1982 led to the escalation of the conflict, specifically, armed clashes between the MNLF army and Philippines’ troops. There were many casualties on both sides. Depleting financial and military resources and a new pragmatism led Nur Misuari, the MNLE leader, to drop the movement’s original secessionist demands to one of autonomy. The words “Muslim Mindanao” were inserted in the new 1987 Philippines Constitution, upon which the ‘Autonomous Region

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of Muslim Mindanao’ (ARMM) came into being in 1989. In 1996, however, when Misuari became the third Governor of ARMM, only 4 of the 13 provinces decided to join the ARMM, namely Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, with some factions within MNLF even boycotting the ARMM. With such a situation, little progress could be achieved to redress the dire Muslim plight in southern Philippines. Upon analysis, it seems that the lack of resources, corruption, intra-MNLF factionalism, inefficiency and little State support from the central government in Manila, all contributed to the failure of the ARMM. In 1977, a splinter group, the MILF, at that time composed of about 10,000 members and predisposed towards a more Islamic approach to solving the conflict, formally broke off from MNLF, the parent body. What ensued were its violent clashes with the sizeable Philippines’ troops that were stationed in the south. Although at every pause in the fighting, the specter of peace talks prevails, the conflict defies any solution and lingers on. Today, little has changed with the plight of Muslim Filipinos. These are the people who were commonly (and pejoratively) referred to by Spaniards as the Moros, after the Islamic Moors who ruled Spain (Cordova, Andalusia) and the Iberian peninsular for about eight centuries. The Muslims seem bent to want to continue to pursue their struggle for autonomy in the southern islands where majority of them live, mostly in Mindanao, Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu. Constituting a small 5–7 per cent (in numbers, about 4–5 million) of the total Filipino population of about 80 million, their ethnic diversity and intra-leadership factionalism have also come in the way of their unity. The three principal ethnic groups are the Maranaos (people of the lakes), Maguindanaos (people of the flooded plains), and the Tausugs (people of the current) surrounding

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the Sulu Sea. Despite this ethnic diversity, however, the Moros seem united in at least two fronts, namely, the preservation of their Islamic identity and their desire for autonomy from the central government in Manila. The failure to achieve these two goals have seen the Muslim Filipinos engaging in a long and bitter conflict with the State, resulting in the loss of more than 130,000 lives and a few millions displaced from their homes. The deteriorating conditions in the Muslim south (which is among the poorest in the entire country), the decrease in Middle East support, the U.S.-declared “war on terrorism” (which resulted in the MILF and Abu Sayaff being declared as terrorist groups and some of their leaders killed), and intra-Muslim elite struggles, all contributed to their weakening and worsening situation. Many peace initiatives, plebiscites, and ceasefires, have been initiated to put the conflict to an end, including those initiated by foreign mediators, such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. These peace initiatives include the following: ManilaTripoli Agreement (1976), Aquino Peace Initiative (1986), Palaez Panel Commission (1987), Peace Commission (1987), Truce Agreement (1992), ARMM Agreement/Peace Accord (1996), Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (1996), and the latest, in 2005/06, the International Monitoring Team, brokered by Malaysia and participated by Brunei and Libya. However, after more than three decades of negotiations, the air of pessimism continue to engulf Muslim-state relations. After all, these initiatives have not brought any modicum of peace to the Muslim regions. With Misuari put in jail in 2001 (and replaced by Dr Parouk Hussin) and Hashim Selamat killed in 2004, the Moros are in search of new leaders, leaders upon whose shoulders the future destiny of the Bangsamoro people lie.

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Chapter 7

Other Southeast Asian Countries: Indochina (Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) The Muslim minorities in mainland Southeast Asia, specifcally Indochina, are a small, marginal, and often forgotten comunities, if compared to the Muslim minorities in maritime Southeast Asia. Muslims constitute about 5 per cent in Myanmar (Burma), 4 per cent in Cambodia (Kampuchea) and a mere 1 per cent in Vietnam and Laos. Given their relatively small size and their lack of integration with maritime Southeast Asia, very little is known about their situation. However, some rudimentary statistical information is available, especially with regard to Muslim institutions such as mosques, madrasahs and Muslim organizations in these four countries. In many ways, though, the problems confronting the Indochinese Muslim community are not unique but are common among minority populations in many less developed countries. Unlike the past, where minority antagonism against the State was mostly associated with their attraction to the Marxist ideology of class struggle, today, arguably, the roots

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of the surge for ethno-religious identity seem to be due more to economic causes. Hence, in assessing the plight of Muslim minorities in Indochina, rather than focusing on identity politics per se, which often hinge on issues of class, primordialism, and marginalization of minorities from the mainstream body politic, scholars have paid greater attention to the perennial issue of economic malaise in general, and economic deprivation in particular. Obviously, from the State perspective, the “minority problem” cannot be brushed aside since its resolution is critical for national integration. States usually employ two principal strategies in dealing with their minorities — assimilation and accommodation. Insofar as the Indo-chinese states are concerned, by and large, it appears that their elites prefer the former (Kettani 1986; Murshida 2006; Taouti 1982). In studying the case of Muslim minorities in these states, perhaps there is merit to refer to some theoretical models that explain the causes of ethno-religious tension and how States manage such tensions. Two of these are the “conflict spiral” and the “instrumentalist” models, which our case studies will soon illustrate. For our discussion about Muslims in Indochina, we shall focus attention to four countries, namely, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

MUSLIMS IN MYANMAR Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) make up about 5 per cent of the country’s total population of some 50 million people. As is the case with many states in Southeast Asia, Islam reached Burma’s shores around the thirteenth to fourteenth century. Early Muslim arrivals were mostly missionaries, court servants and traders and many settled in the Shwebo region in the central plains, which

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served as the capital of early Burmese kingdoms. Given Burma’s proximity to China, a small number of Chinese Muslims also settled in the Shan kingdom in pre-colonial Burma. After Myanmar came under British rule as a province of India (from the ninteenth century to 1937), the Burmese Muslims’ plight saw some improvement. The signing of the Bowring Treaty which paved the way for the adoption of a market economy, encouraged the penetration of Christianity into the Buddhist landscape. However, the Treaty also enabled greater number of Muslims from nearby countries such as China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to come to Burma under the British’s “open door” immigration policy. Although the Buddhists resisted the arrival of new religions, they could not prevent the entry of much needed labour to serve the burdgeoning bureaucracy in the capital Yangoon and surrounding areas. Consequently, Muslims from neighbouring countries, especially India, answered the call in greater numbers. Some eventually became civil servants, while many continued as traders and casual labourers. It was, however, Muslims from Bangladesh that caught the attention of the State, particularly in the period leading to the Burmese Independence in 1948. The British retreat during the Japanese Occupation led to the alleged massacre of nearly 100,000 Muslims — the Rohingyas — by the mostly Buddhist Rakhine Magha people. Their status as a minority and immigrant people, coupled with their alleged collusion with the British in the Burmese’ anti-colonial nationalist struggle, explained the discrimination against the Rohingyas by many Burmese. For reasons of proximity and history, it was natural for Bangladeshi Muslims to converge in large numbers in Rakhine (former Arakan). Situated close to the Bangladesh border, the Arakan states during the eighteenth century, then

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ruled by independent Buddhist monarchs, seemed to be more welcoming to Bangladeshis. Not surprisingly, by the time of Burmese Independence, Bengali Muslims constituted the largest group of Muslims in Burma. Today, Muslims in Myanmar have different attitudes and orientations in their relations with the State and with the largely Buddhist masses. Some have assimilated into the Buddhist majority, while others are clinging on to their MyanmareseMuslim identity while retaining their “motherland” cultures from the Indian subcontinent. Of these different groups, the Rohingyas in the Rakhine region seem to face the greatest difficulty. From existing reports, it appears that the Muslim minority, together with other non-Muslim ethnic groups, resent Burman rule, and a few of these groups seem more than ready to return to armed resistance if the opportunity arises. In fact, the change of name — from Burma to Myanmar — was also precipitated by the regime’s aim to appease these minorities and hopefully, ease their immersion into Burmese society. Although constituting the largest of all Muslim communities in Myanmar, the Rohingyas have suffered major casualties and other hardships due to their clashes with government forces ever since 1961. General Ne Win’s rule since 1962 — where he introduced the “Burmese Way to Socialism” that advocated extreme nationalism, expulsion of foreigners and the subjugation of minorities — worsened the Rohingyas’ plight. Their continuing persecution throughout the 1980s and 1990s had turned many into refugees, with more than 250,000 fleeing into Bangladesh. In spite of intervention by the United Nations, a few thousand are still in refugee camps and many more thousands are living illegally in the surrounding regions. Their condition is compounded by the fact that they are the poorest and most neglected of all the Muslim communities.

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The Western preoccupation with the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the reluctance of both Myanmar and Bangladesh to accept them, accentuates the Rohingyas’ plight. In the former case, numerous international and UN-sanctioned initiatives have failed to pressure the junta-led regime (in 2007, led by Generals Than Shwe and Maung Aye) to activate democratic reforms in the country. On the contrary, the brutal clampdown on the peaceful protests of 1988 was repeated with even more brute force in 2007, when the military crushed the peaceful demonstrations, led by Buddhist monks. The unprecedented condemnation by the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, of the clampdown, was insufficient to signal to the military regime the seriousness that regional and international pressures attach to its abject refusal to budge from its position. It is uncertain as to what more needs to be done by the international community to get the junta to mend its ways. Perhaps, the countries with a major stake in Myanmar, such as India, China and Thailand, hold the key to mediate the necessary political changes there. With the above brief about Myanmar, let us turn our attention to Islam and Muslims in three other countries in Indochina: Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. For a long time, Muslims in these three socialist states were reported to have been disillusioned and alienated from mainstream national developments. In more recent years, however, State policies to redress the stark economic gap between them and the majority non-Muslim population have shown some encouraging results.

MUSLIMS IN VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA Some scholars had estimated that Islam became the faith of Cham Muslims (in Vietnam and Cambodia) some time during

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the period of the Zong Dynasty in China (960–1280). The Eastern Cham of Southern Vietnam is divided into two main groups — Cham and Bani. While the Cham are descendants of former Hindu worshippers who only converted to Islam after the fall of their kingdom in the fifteenth century, the Bani are descendants of Muslims from neighbouring states with a long history of Islamic worship (Taouti 1982). The Muslim situation is slightly different in Central Vietnam, where one-third of them are Bani Muslims. Muslims are concentrated in three different regions — in the center-east in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south-west at Tay Ninh and on the frontier with Cambodia at An Giang. Given the cosmopolitan pull of Ho Chi Minh City, the Muslims there come from various nationalities — Indonesians, Malays, Indians, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Omanis, and North Africans. Overall, the Muslim community in Vietnam constitutes a very small minority, consisting of a mere 1 per cent (totalling about 800,000) of the total population of Vietnam. Today, it is difficult to conclude with any degree of certainty the real situation of Muslims in Vietnam, since very few studies have been conducted about the Muslims there. However, official government statements about their ethnic minorities including the Muslims, paint a rosy picture about the lives as minorities. Other reports though, gave a different story. As an example it was recorded as to how, under the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in the late 1950s and early 1960s, tribal minorities were subjected to centralized control and continue to be perjoratively stereotyped by many Vietnamese as “moi”, meaning “savage”. Some of their ancestral lands were also seized for resettlement projects purportedly meant to integrate the minorities within the larger majority population. The situation reached a breaking point in 1964, when some minority leaders, including the Cham Muslims,

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formed the ‘United Front for the Struggle of Oppressed Peoples’ (FULCRO), aimed at championing their rights and redressing their grievances vis-a-vis. the State. The minorities’ plight seemed to have improved slightly in the 1980s when they were granted better health and cultural resources and a few of their representatives sat in the National Assembly, the policy-making body of the State. In 1980 itself, the new Constitution had inserted the clause “citizens enjoy freedom of worship”. What about the situation of Muslims in Cambodia? Being the original inhabitants of the medieval Hindu Kingdom of Champa, Cham Muslims were among the earliest converts to Islam in mainland Southeast Asia. The Champa kingdom, which in the ninth century was the dominant power in the region, saw large numbers of its people converted to Islam when its king led the way in the seventeenth century. Unlike in Vietnam (from which much of Cham migration to Cambodia originated), the Cham in Cambodia are regarded as an official ethnic minority group, and with about 4 per cent of the total population of about 14 million, the community is probably the largest minority group in the country. In fact, numbering about 800,000, Cambodia Chams constitute the largest Cham ethnic community throughout Indochina. By the 1950s, the Cambodian government had officially designated the title “Khmer Islam” to the Cham population. Geographically, the community of “Khmer Islam” is concentrated just north of Phnom Penh and in the province of Kompong Cham along the Mekong River where they formed 36 per cent of the population. Significant numbers of Muslims are also found in other provinces, such as Kampot, Kandal, Phnom Penh, Kampong Chang, Kampong Thum, Kracheh and Batdambang. About 10 per cent of Cambodian Cham adopts the religion of

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Hinduism and Buddhism. Ethnically and linguistically, these Muslims can be grouped under the Malayo-Polynesian racial category, and some had intermarried with Malaysian Muslims who had migrated to Cambodia from various parts of Malaysia. Their main livelihood include fishing, water-buffalo raising, blacksmithing, jewellery making, sculpture, boat making, silk weaving and textile merchandizing. An official census in 1974 estimated the number of Muslims in Cambodia to be 550,000 of which the predominant majority, numbering 480,000, were of Cham origins while 20,000 had Javanese ancestry. The purges by the notorious Khmer Rouge led to an estimated half of the entire Cham population being either killed or fleeing the country, with some seeking refuge in the northern Malaysian states of Trengganu and Kelantan. Today, some have married local Malays and many have integrated well with the Muslims in these two states.

MUSLIMS IN LAOS More than half of the six million population of Laos is made up of the ethnic community known as the Lao Loum. The rest of the population could be divided into three groups — the Lao Tai who live in the hills and cultivate dry rice, the Lao Theung who also live in the hills but are made up of a looseaffiliation between the Mon Khmer tribe and the Lao Sung tribe. The Muslim community constitutes a mere minority, consisting of only 1 per cent (totalling about 65,000) of the total Laotian population. The majority of Muslims reside in the capital city of Vientiane. A Jama’ or Congregational Mosque, located at the capital, has signs written in five languages — Arabic, Lao, Tamil, Urdu and English. The Tamil and Urdu languages were included due to

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the more recent migration of Tamil Muslims to Vientiane, who mostly came via Saigon. Unlike the Muslim minorities in other parts of Indochina who are mainly confined to agrarian or low-salaried blue collar jobs, the Laotian Muslims are mainly businessmen. They invested in various kinds of businesses ranging from textile, import-export industries, or work as restauranteurs and halal meat purveyors. Other than the Laotian Muslims with South Asian ancestry, there is also a small group of Cham Muslims who had fled from Cambodia and later settled under abject conditions during the notorious Khmer Rouge regime. A mosque located in Vientiane’s Chantaburi district and known locally as “Masjid Cambodia” is a common gathering place for the Muslims from these different backgrounds.

SOCIALIST STATE POLICIES: IMPACT UPON MUSLIM MINORITIES Analysing the plight of the three Muslim minorities in Indochina indicate that some efforts have been made by the Indochinese States to integrate their Muslim communities into the broader nation-building agenda, but with little success. Cambodian Muslims in particular, have had to endure many difficulties. Their greatest persecution occurred during the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, which lasted from 1975 to 1979. Then, Cham Muslims were not allowed to congregrate in one area; in fact, after 1975 every Cham village was forcibly broken up and emptied by the Khmer Rouge, which also abolished all religions. Hence, the Islamic religion was similarly banned, its religious schools shut down and its language (Cham language) prohibited. Those who failed to abide by these orders and restrictions risked being executed (Kettani 1986; Taouti 1982).

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It was estimated that about 100,000 Cham Muslims lost their lives in the four years of the Khmer Rouge reign. Among those reported to have been executed was the Grand Mufti, Haji Raja Thipadei Res Lah, the Chief of the Cambodian Islam Association, Haji Math Liharoun and a Muslim professor, Toun Yakaup. The Chams endured many other repressive policies: it was alleged that some were forced to eat pork; their community leaders arrested and detained on the flimsiest of charges; and their burial grounds desecrated. In this latter regard, quite a number of these graves were buried “upsidedown” (not facing Mecca as is the requirement for Muslim burials) in contravention of both Muslim and international laws. The regime’s collectivization of the country’s resources and properties also affected the Cham and other minorities as they were reduced to a servile position. Upon reflection, the underpinnings of the existing disillusionment among the minority population begun with the States’ deviation from its earlier held socialist ideals of equality. The particular Socialism that was practiced had not benefited the minorities, who are often the poor and marginalized segments of society. The Khmer Rouge regime ended in 1979 and the new Democratic Kampuchean government (PRK), with the help of Vietnam, put an end to the genocides and other atrocities. The PPK also re-permitted the practice of religion, including Islam. For the perspective, Muslim Chams were among the most ardent supporters of the PRK government with several of them becoming members of the National Assembly. According to historian Michael Vickery, author of a major study about the PRK, the State attempted to make the Cham people feel that they were treated fairly like other citizens. The mosques, closed down by the Khmer Rouge, were reopened, and Muslim

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students were allowed to study at the madrasah where they also learned the Arabic script. Today. the Chams who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime had returned to the country, but remained an economically backward community in an economically fragile state. Many continue to be landless and economically disenfranchised. In the case of Vietnam, although Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution guarantees all Vietnamese citizens the freedom of religion, a study conducted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1998 found that indirect controls and other restrictions had the effect of limiting such freedoms. As was the situation in Cambodia, the issue of land tenure remains an unresolved grievance for the Muslim minority in Vietnam. The creation of the Indochinese Union in 1887 and subsequent large-scale land acquisition by French officials and capitalists led to the concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few capitalists and conglomerates. For example, way back in 1940, 2 per cent of the population of the Mekong Delta owned 45 per cent of all the lands. Apparently, Vietnam’s ‘minority problems’ oscillate between two extremes — assimilation and self-determination. Often the State adopts policies that fall between these two extremes, tilting more towards the former since accommodating the latter was seen to be encouraging secessionist demands. Official Vietnamese policy, however, was stated to be the “integration of the minority brothers into an indissoluble Vietnamese nation”. This explained the State’s preference for an assimilation strategy. Even after Ho Chi Minh’s “Great August Revolution” — first against the occupying Japanese forces and later against the French, which gave birth to Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the 1940s and the Socialist Republic in 1954 — the State refused to acknowledge the economic and identity underpinnings

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of Muslim grievances. Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978 and the alleged Muslim anti-Vietnamese resistance accentuated the Muslim plight. The Muslim minority of Laos too faces a similar predicament. Although the Laotian Constitution allows for freedom of religion, in practice, the State often restrict religious freedom. It does so, since it deems religion as a destabilizing and disruptive force to national integration. Although the State targeted much of its religious clampdown towards the Protestant Christians and their churches in the main, the Muslims (consisting mainly Sunni Muslims), being a very small minority, were given little chance but adhere to the policies and preferences of the predominantly Buddhist State. It appears that the three Indochinese States manage their minority ethno-religious groups, especially the Muslim communities, in quite similar ways (Kettani 1986; Taouti 1982). In Vietnam, although the country is composed of a mélange of ethnic minority groups, all these ethnic groups had to support the creation of a unified state. But in an attempt to hasten the national integration process, at times, State policies were ambivalent, if not contradictory. As an illustration, on the one hand, the State had declared its interest in “maintaining and developing cultural identity” while on the other hand, officiallyapproved school textbooks tend to emphasize, and even glorify, Kinh culture and history. In national schools too, Vietnamese remains the official language of instruction and the State encourages ethnic minority children to enroll in such schools. To mitigate the apparent economic gap between the majority and minority groups, the State provided government subsidies to encourage the minorities to move to the “New Economic Zones” in the Central Highlands. However, this in-migration policy had backfired;

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it instead exacerbated ethnic tensions between the majorityminority populations, and Muslims found themselves being dragged into this tension. Overall, it is doubtful if Vietnam’s strong commitment towards forging a multi-ethnic nation has succeeded in bringing the minorities, the Muslims in particular, into the fold of mainstream nation-building agendas. In Cambodia, post-Pol Pot regime, the State, in its attempt to restore the confidence of the minority Muslims towards the State, restored religious institutions and largely permitted the freedom of religious practices. Consequently, there are in existence today, about 300 Masjid, 200 Musalla, 300 Madrasah and Qur’anic schools. Gradually, Muslims are found in the Government Ministries, Parliament, Senate, Armed Forces and the bureaucracy. Although many of the Muslim children are enrolled in religious schools for half a day and attend secular schools in the other half of the day, there are also those who opted to enrol full time in the religious schools even though they face difficulties in finding employment. Graduates of Islamic schools, including, Islamic religious teachers also receive low salaries, often from the Muslim villagers themselves and not from the State. Insofar as the situation in Laos is concerned, the government has recognized that ethnic minorities are to be accorded the same status as the majority population, and their unique culture and tradition should be preserved. Hence, in 1992, the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolution Party adopted a resolution aimed at preserving the distinct identities of the ethnic minorities in the country. A monthly magazine, Phao Phan, was also launched in April 2006 to demonstrate the support that the government extends to varied lifestyle and living conditions of ethnic groups in the country.

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STATE POLICIES POST-911 By and large, the minorities of Indochina — specifically, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos — were not shielded from the unfurling of events on the international stage after the 11 September 2001 debácle. The Muslim minorities are particularly vulnerable as they become more susceptible to suspicion from non-Muslims as “extremist” communities (Hussin 2006; Rabasa 2003). In Cambodia, for instance, a local Muslim organization, Om Al Qura, had come under the government’s scrutiny as it was purported to have links with the regional terrorist networks — Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the global terrorist organization, Al Qaeda. Om Al Qura had operated an Islamic School near the capital at Phnom Penh for the past five or six years and most of the funds came from Saudi Arabia. The school’s religious teachers hailed from foreign countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Thailand and Egypt. There were reports that alleged that Wahabbi principles were injected into the teachings in an effort to “purify” and “cleanse” Cham Muslims’ religious practices from what was said to be animistic teachings that contradicts Islamic principles and tenets. Such official perceptions and suspicions led to the arrest of three foreign Muslims on terrorism charges in May 2003. Twenty-eight other foreigners who were teaching at the Islamic school were also expelled from the country in what the government described as a crackdown on terrorist activities in the state. Spearheading the global war on terrorism has made the United States show greater concern about worldwide Muslims activities, including those in Indochina. The porous borders of the states and the lax security controls, makes Indochina vulnerable to terrorist incursions. The U.S. also feared that unwittingly, the Indochinese states may also harbour regional

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and international terrorists who may sustain their clandestine activities with the support of the local Muslim populations. Hence, in recent years, tighter security and legal measures were enforced but these Indochinese states were also wary not to be seen as openly stereotyping the Muslim community negatively or making them feel as automatic targets of the newly introduced anti-terrorism laws. Muslims too have tried to play their part in distancing themselves from the terrorism connection. The Cambodian Muslim community has introduced programmes to alleviate the economic plight of their fellow brethren. These include ways of upgrading their job skills, improving their religious education system and enhancing intra-Muslim cooperation to enable them to be unified in combating extremist ideologies and activities. For these programmes, the State was persuaded to provide training for Muslim youths as a way of rescuing them from their traditional occupations into jobs in the urban centers. In addition, officially subsidized financial loans for socio-economic and educational projects were also introduced. Similarly, the Vietnamese state recently launched a five-year plan “to improve the educational, cultural and economic lives of ethnic minority populations, with the aim of erasing the gaps between ethnic minority areas and other areas of the country”. Although the plan was not specifically targeted towards the minority Muslim community per se, Muslims also benefit from this policy. Furthermore, in order to overcome the minorities’ sense of alienation, the State introduced school textbooks in minority dialects. Another sign of the socialist state’s increasing religious tolerance was the opening of the largest mosque in the Dong Nai Province, which is home to more than 1,900 Vietnamese Muslims. Finally, partly to allay the criticisms from Human Rights groups, the State also passed the “Ordinance

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on Beliefs and Religions” granting equal freedom of practice to all faiths. In Laos, in an effort to address the economic problems of the minority population, the government launched the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) as part of the government’s National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES). PRF was supported by the World Bank in the form of a low-cost loan, repayable over a forty-year term. The main focus of the PRF were targeted towards issues of public health, education, agriculture, communication, and vocational training courses. From available reports, it seems that the fund has been a success thus far. In the fiscal year 2004–05, it managed to cover 14 districts, 1,000 villages and 188 “development groups”. Hence, overall, we see some concerted efforts on the part of the governments of the Indochinese states — Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos — to address the economic and identity issues confronting the minority populations in their respective countries. It is, however, too early to conclude if these State strategies and initiatives will have a positive, long-term impact in resolving the plight of the Muslim minorities in these countries.

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Chapter 8

Conclusion From the analyses and discussions in earlier chapters, a few main observations can now be made about Islam and the Muslims in Southeast Asia. These observations cover both the maritime and mainland regions and encompass countries where Muslims are the majority community and those where they are the minority. In maritime Southeast Asia — comprising countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and the Philippines — Islam has had a dynamic, albeit uneven, impact upon the growth and development of the region as a whole. Reaching the shores of the archipelago from around the thirteenth century, the faith has evolved into a powerful influence in the ordinary lives of Muslims, particularly in countries with large Muslim populations, notably Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. It was in these three countries that Islamic scholarship, trade and political power took shape in the early centuries. The result: the faith spread to other areas throughout this part of the world, including in places where Hindu, Buddhist and other “popular religions” had long been established as the majority religions and cultures. From this region — the heartland of Islam in Southeast Asia — emerged other dispersed Malay (Muslim) diasporas, which are now to be found in faraway places across the globe, practicing their own versions of Islamicity. 87

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The spread of Islam, however was not without its challenges. The arrival of colonalism in this part of the world, resulted in the imposition of Western worldviews, the bureaucratization of the faith, and the subjugation of things “Islamic”, although for the perspective, British rule of Muslim Southeast Asia was not as harsh as that of the Portuguese, Dutch, and the Spanish. Beyond this colonial factor, Muslims in different regions of maritime (or island) Southeast Asia had to grapple with other problems and challenges. To begin with, although mostly Sunnis, Muslims here practice different variants of Islam, manifest, among others, in the traditionalist and modernist strands and the “moderate” and “fundamentalist” orientations. These differences, when added to other relatively recent imperatives such as the secular and capitalist environment where they live, their plight as minority communities, and incidences of extremist behaviour among some of their radical co-religionists, pose newer stresses and strains in the nation-building agendas of their respective states (Hussin 2006; Rabasa 2003). For majority-Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, managing the aspirations of their non-Muslim minority citizens has not been easy. The above are some salient characteristics of Islam and Muslims in maritime Southeast Asia. Is the situation similar or different in mainland Southeast Asia, in states such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos? Beyond doubt, life has been more difficult for Muslims in these Indochinese countries. To start with, they are less homogenous, comprising of local and migrant Muslim arrivals. Isolated from the more vibrant mainstream Islam of the maritime states, Indochinese Muslims have long lived by and been subjected to the centuries-old animist and Hindu/Buddhist cultures. That they constitute small minorities is yet another challenge that cannot be

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underestimated. Finally, while historically, Indochinese Muslims were discriminated religiously, in the more contemporary situation today, it appears that economic deprivation has been a continuing impediment to their successful integration into the national body politic. The Laotian state, for instance, had little empathy for religions in general. Although this bias was originally felt more by adherents of Christianity, the State’s assimilationist approach adversely affected all minorities, including the Muslims, who resented such incursions into their religious lives. Although documentary evidence is hard to come by, it seems that the minority Muslim population — a mere 1 to 2 per cent of the total population — constituting mostly of Rohingyas (Benggali Muslims), and also the Chams, the Panthay and Moken Muslims, had to bear the consequences for being Muslims. Their plight is not helped by their relative low socio-economic status if compared to the majority of Laotians. In Myanmar, unlike the earlier reign of King Mindon in the ninteenth century that was known for its equitable treatment of Muslims, the rule of the Generals (such as U Nu and Ne Win) has not been remembered with fondness. PM Ne Win, for instance, was alleged to have persecuted the Muslim leaders from the Burmese National Congress, including its leader, U Razak, who was once an Education Minister, and later found assassinated in 1947. As recent as 1997 and 2001, there have been anti-Muslims riots, resulting in many local Muslims, descendants from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, and the more recent arrivals from Malaysia, having to face the brunt of such resentment. Fortunately, their disenchantment did not escalate into overt conflict with the State. Perhaps, factors such as their small population numbers, the lack of support of their plight

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from other Muslim countries, and, in more recent times, the greater accommodation of their distinctive identities by the State, have helped their situation. In this latter regard, these former communist regimes could have come to realize that a main source of the Muslim antagonism against the States stems from economic neglect. Thus, increasingly, many States in mainland Southeast Asia have adopted various economic plans and strategies to manage this perennial “minority problem” from amongst their Muslim citizens in particular, and ethnic minorities in general. Vietnam has introduced a five-year plan to bridge the centre-periphery income gaps, Burma changed its name to Myanmar, while Cambodia has offered the minority communities greater access to education and economic opportunities. Finally, and this became even more evident after the 9/11 debácle, Indochinese states have been hard at work in their attempt to strike a balance between adopting a tough posture against terrorism on the one hand, and a more conciliatory approach in catering to the aspirations of their Muslim minorities, on the other. Comparing and contrasting the experiences of Muslims in maritime and mainland Southeast Asia, will also reveal to us the critical role that the State (or government) plays in shaping the content and contours of Southeast Asian Islam. With few exceptions, the majority of countries in this part of the world have had a long history of what can be loosely described as ‘authoritarian’ governance. While the democratic cleansing wind, aided by the current globalization phenomenon, is gradually reshaping the governing paradigms of the Southeast Asian political landscape, for many states, the process is doggedly slow as legacies of the past still linger on. The new and prevailing challenge posed by “Political Islam” — characterized in the main by Muslim pressures for

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the State to accommodate their desire to practise Islamic law and maintain their Muslim identity — and the U.S.-led “global war on terrorism” post-2001, has led to a general hardening against Muslim citizens, particularly where Muslims constitute the minority (Hussin 2006; Nathan 2003). Hence, inasmuch as the progression of Islam in Southeast Asia is contingent upon many factors, including those that calls for Muslim introspection of their own weaknesses (Hussin 1998), there is no denying that the nature and capacity of the State is more than important. Through its policies and politics, the State (or Government) will continue to exercise a key role in the future course of Islam — and with it, its adherents, the Muslims — for many years to come.

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