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5 - Religious Resurgence amongst the Malays and Its Impact: The Case of Singapore

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2020

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Summary

Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a proliferation of strategic studies and publications on terrorism and radicalism in the region, given their potent social, economic and political ramifications. However, critical studies on the phenomenon of the non-violent resurgence of Islam among the Malays remains wanting, despite its dominance and impact. Those studies that do exist tend to disproportionately focus on its emergence and manifestations within a generally positive evaluative perspective. This chapter focuses critically on the major fixations and agenda promoted and embedded in resurgence discourse, and analyses how they are sustained and reinforced. It argues that the phenomenon has become so dominant that it negates, marginalizes and silences competing Malay thought and perspectives that are vital to the development and well-being of the community and the larger society. Instead of identifying relevant problems and providing muchneeded solutions grounded in an enlightened concept of religion and other philosophies that could facilitate Malays’ adaptation to change, resurgence discourse impedes this process and exacerbates the challenges. While special attention is given to the case of Singapore, the issues and problems discussed here are no less relevant to but intertwined with the country's predominantly Malay/Muslim neighbours.

Religious resurgence has become so prevalent today that there has been a strong tendency amongst both Muslims and non-Muslims to misleadingly conflate manifestations of the phenomenon with the teachings and values of Islam itself. So influential has the phenomenon been that it has profusely penetrated not only religious thought and practice at the individual or community level but has also expanded to the public sphere, where proponents articulate their views and demands on a thousand points, leaving hardly any domain untouched. Its overwhelming imprints are evident in the innumerable and diverse issues that encompass identity issues; the sense of morality; perceptions of customs, traditions and social norms; the expanding range of dietary taboos and restrictions; gender relations; and intra-community issues, issues relating to relations with non-Muslims. Perceptions and discourse on popular culture involving music, dress, lifestyles, dance, film, literary forms and expressions also bear its unmistakable imprints.

Type
Chapter
Information
Alternative Voices in Muslim Southeast Asia
Discourse and Struggles
, pp. 33 - 66
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2019

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