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1 - Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2024

Norshahril Saat
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
A'an Suryana
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute and Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia
Mohd Faizal Musa
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute and National University of Malaysia
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Summary

Due to its strategic location, maritime Southeast Asia serves as an economic hub that connects the East and the West, with the Straits of Malacca serving as an important route for business access. Maritime Southeast Asia remains essential today, if not more significant, as the economies within the region continue to grow faster than many other regions in the world. Its strategic location and the advancement of its combined economy make the region a premiere meeting point, offline and online, for many people worldwide as more people look for investment opportunities and leisure activities in more prosperous Southeast Asia.

Apart from its economic and strategic positioning, maritime Southeast Asia is a significant area for analysis as the region also serves as a hub for the cross-pollination of ideas. During the Cold war period (1945–91), Southeast Asia became the battleground for the forces of neo-liberal capitalism and communism. But an equally interesting scope of scholarly interest is the development and exchange of religious ideas, particularly concerning Islam. Azra’s (2004) study The Origins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia, among others, remain one of the most important contributions capturing the network of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern ideas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Maritime Southeast Asia is home to the largest Muslim society in the world, namely Indonesia. Eighty-nine per cent of its 281 million people are Muslims. However, the community is not homogenous, depending on where they live, and the extent to which they immerse cultural and ethnic influences into their religious life. Some would reckon that the country is also changing, from one that was referred to as the smiling face of Islam to one that is currently experiencing a conservative turn (Van Bruinessen 2013; Feillard and Madinier 2011); or a hotbed of political Islam and radicalism (Ayoob 2008).

Maritime Southeast Asia is also home to the relatively homogenous and traditional Islamic polity of Brunei Darussalam, which ties the concept of the monarchy to Islam and Malay culture. Based on its 2021 census, Brunei has a population of 333,600 citizens, 89 per cent of which are Malays (Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, Brunei 2023).

Type
Chapter
Information
Trending Islam
Cases from Southeast Asia
, pp. 1 - 12
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2023

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