Norshahril Saat

Dr Norshahril Saat
Senior Fellow
  • 0Coordinator0, 0Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme0
  • 0Indonesia Studies Programme0
  • 0Malaysia Studies Programme0
Research Interest
Government and politics of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, Contemporary Islamic thought and authority (ulama), Middle East influence in Southeast Asia and geopolitical implications, Theories in Comparative politics- State Capacity, Corporatism, and capture, Malay Heritage and Culture

Researcher’s Profile

In 2015, I was awarded a PhD in International, Political and Strategic Studies by the Australian National University (ANU). I received a BA (Hons) in Political Science and MA in Malay Studies from the National University of Singapore. I was a recipient of the following scholarships and awards: NUS MA Scholar (2008), Tun Dato’ Sir Cheng Lock Tan ISEAS MA Scholar (2008), MUIS PhD Scholar (2012), and Syed Isa Semait Scholar (2015). In 2017, the MOE-SSRC awarded me a grant to study the Singapore’s Islamic Studies Graduates. I am currently a member of the Editorial Committee for the journal SOJOURN. I also sit as volunteer in numerous advisory boards, including as the Chairman of Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF).


Current Research

  • Singapore’s Islamic Studies Graduates: Their Role and Impact in a plural society (Social Science Research Thematic Grant, Ministry of Education). Sep 2017- Aug 2020
  • Research in non-violent extremism: Competing Islamic ideologies and trend setters in Southeast Asia. 2020-2023
  • State Responses to Extremism in Post-Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia (In collaboration with GRIPS, Japan). 2019-2021
  • The future of Malay politics in post GE14 Malaysia. (Malaysia Studies Program) 2018-2020
  • Islamic Civil Society and Politics in Indonesia. Indonesia Studies Program. 2020-2021


Selected Publications



  • Norshahril Saat, Azhar Ibrahim and Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman. Reaching for the Crescent: Aspirations of Singapore Islamic Studies Graduates and the Challenges (Singapore: ISEAS, 2021)
  • Norshahril Saat. 2018. The State, Ulama and Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. (Revised edition republished by ISEAS)
  • Norshahril Saat. 2018. Tradition and Islamic learning : Singaporean students in Al-Azhar. Singapore : ISEAS.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2015. Yusof Ishak : Singapore’s First President. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2015. Faith, Authority and the Malays : The Ulama In Contemporary Singapore. Singapore : The Malay Heritage Foundation and Select Publishing.


Edited Books

  • Norshahril Saat and Ahmad Najib Burhani (ed). The New Santri : Challenges to Traditional Religious Authority in Indonesia. (Singapore : ISEAS, 2020)
  • Norshahril Saat and Azhar Ibrahim Alwee (ed). Alternative Voices in Muslim Southeast Asia : Discourse and Struggles (Singapore : ISEAS, 2020)
  • Zainul Abidin, Wan Hussin, and Norshahril (ed). 2019. Beyond Bicentennial : Perspectives on Malays. Singapore, World Scientific Press
  • Norshahril Saat. (ed). 2018. Islam in Southeast Asia : Negotiating Modernity. Singapore : ISEAS
  • Norshahril Saat (ed). Fulfilling the Trust : 50 years of shaping Muslim religious life in Singapore. Singapore : World Scientific Press and MUIS.
  • Zainul Abidin Rasheed and Norshahril Saat (ed). 2016. Majulah ! 50 Years of Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore. Singapore : World Scientific Press.


Monographs (6000-10 000 words)

  • Syafiq Hasyim and Norshahril Saat. 2020. Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs under Joko Widodo. Trends No 13. Singapore. ISEAS.
  • Terence Chong, Lee Hock Guan, Norshahril Saat and Serina Rahman. The 2017 Johor Survey : Selected Findings. Trends No 20. Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2017. Traditionalist Response to Wahhabi/Salafism in Batam. Trends, no 7. Singapore : ISEAS.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2017. Johor Remains The Bastion of Kaum Tua. Trends, no1. Singapore : ISEAS


Journal Articles

  • Norshahril Saat. 2019. Norshahril Saat. ‘Malay women leaders in Malaysia : The Unthinkable ?’ Hawwa : Journal of Women of the Middle East and Islamic World (2019) 1-25
  • Norshahril Saat. 2016. Theologians ‘moralising’ Indonesia ? The case of post-New Order Ulama Council of Indonesia (MUI). Asian Journal of Social Science 44, 546-570.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2016. Singapore beyond ethnicity : Rethinking the Group Representative Constituency Scheme. The Round Table. The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2014. ‘The Ulama, Thought-Styles, and the Islamic state debate in contemporary Malaysia.’ Studia Islamika. Vol 21, no 1, 47-76
  • Norshahril Saat. 2012. ‘Countering Utopianism: Alatas and the resurgence of the 1970s’. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs (RIMA) volume 46, no 1, 105-126.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2012. ‘Islamising Malayness: Ulama Discourse and Authority in Contemporary Malaysia’ In Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim Life. Volume 6 Number 2, 135-153, Springer. (Published Online: September 2011)


Book Chapters

  • Norshahril Saat. Colonialism and Studying the Malays. In Zainul Abidin, Wan Hussin, and Norshahril (ed), Beyond Bicentennial: Perspective on Malays. Singapore: World Scientific Press. Pp 3-20.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2020. “Rising Conservatism in the Singapore Malay-Muslim Community: Worrying Times Ahead? In Terence Chong (ed), Navigating Differences: Integration in Singapore. Singapore: ISEAS
  • Norshahril Saat. 2020. Mainstreaming Alternative Islamic Voices in Malaysia. In Norshahril Saat and Azhar Ibrahim (eds), Alternative Voice in Muslim Southeast Asia: Discourse and Struggles. Singapore: ISEAS
  • Norshahril Saat. 2020. The Politics of Islamic Discourse in Malaysia. In Norshahril Saat and Azhar Ibrahim (eds), Alternative Voice in Muslim Southeast Asia: Discourse and Struggles. Singapore: ISEAS
  • Norshahril Saat. 2019. Kelantan. PAS settles in on the balcony of Mecca. In Francis Hutchinson and Lee Hwok Aun. The Defeat of Barisan Nasional: Missed Signs or late surges? Singapore: ISEAS. Pp.342-364
  • Norshahril Saat. 2018. Singapore’s Multiculturalism: An asset for nation building, in Bilveer S and S Vasoo (ed). Critical Issues in Asset Building in Singapore’s development Singapore: World Scientific Press.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2018. Competing Discourses Among Malaysian Muftis: Still a Case of Arabization? In Norshahril Saat. (ed). 2018. Islam in Southeast Asia : Negotiating Modernity. Pp. 35-62. Singapore : ISEAS
  • Norshahril Saat. 2018. Johor and Traditionalist Islam: What This Means for Malaysia. In Southeast Asian Affairs 2018. (ed) Malcolm Cook and Daljit Singh, 187-200, Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2014. ‘‘Deviant’ Muslims: The Plight of Shias in Contemporary Malaysia’ in Religious Diversity in Muslim-Majority states in Southeast Asia: Areas of Toleration and conflict (ed) Bernhard Platzdasch and Johan Saravanamuttu, 359-278, Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2012. ‘Muslims and the Construction of the ‘Other’: Dominant responses towards alternative religious discourses in Contemporary Malay society’ in Pluralism in Malaysia and Singapore: Essays on Issues and Challenges (ed) Sharifah Zaleha Syed Hassan and Ong Puay Liu, 73-90. Selangor: University Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2010. The State Ulama and Religiosity: Rethinking Islamization of Contemporary Malaysia. In Secularization, Religion, and The State UTCP Booklet 17 (ed) Haneda Masashi, 131-141. Tokyo: The University of Tokyo Centre For Philosophy. (Indexed by Google Scholar: 3)
  • Norshahril Saat. 2010. Re-negotiating the Muslim Public Sphere: New Media and the re-construction of the Ulama’s Authority in Contemporary Malaysia’ In Portrayal of Islam in the Media (ed) Mazni et al, 191-209. Malaysia: USIM
  • Norshahril Saat. 2010. Rethinking The Islamization Agenda In Contemporary Malaysia: Bediuzaman Said Nursi’s Contribution to the Debate on Islam, Knowledge, And Development’. Knowledge, Faith, Morality And The Future Of Humanity. 375-387. Istanbul: Baski-Cilt. (Conference Publication)
  • Norshahril Saat. 2010. Towards A ‘Normative’ Islam: Globalised Islam And Its Implication On Local Traditions. Knowledge, Faith, Morality And The Future Of Humanity. 591-594. Istanbul: Baski-Cilt. (Conference Publication)


Book Reviews in Journals

  • Norshahril Saat, Pradana Boy Zulian and Nur Amali Ibrahim. SOJOURN SYMPOSIUM. On Improvisational Islam: Indonesia Youth in a Time of Possibility. Sojourn Vol 36/2 (July 2021)
  • Norshahril Saat. 2019. Book Review. Mahathir’s Islam: Mahathir Mohamad on Religion and Modernity in Malaysia. By Sven Schottmann. Sojourn. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia. Vol 34. 2019
  • Norshahril Saat. 2019. Book review. Living Sharia: Law and Practice in Malaysia. By Timothy P Daniels. The United States of America: University of Washington Press. 2017. 280 pp. TRT World Research Centre.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2017. Book review. Hamka’s Great Story: A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia. By James R Rush. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. Xix+286pp. Sojourn. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia Vol32, No 3 (2017). Pp754-756.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2017. Book Review. Rebranding Islam : Piety, Prosperity, and a self-help Guru. By James Hoesterey. Sojourn. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia Vol32, No2. 2 (2017). Pp430-431.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2014. Book Review. Gender and Islam in Southeast Asia: Women’s Rights Movements, Religious Resurgence and Local Traditions. Edited by Susanne Schröter. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013, 335. Sojourn. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia Vol 29, No2 (2014) pp. 501-502.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2010. Book Review. Indonesia and the Muslim World: Islam and Secularism in the foreign Policy of Soeharto and beyond. By Anak Agung Bayu Perwita. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies Volume 41 Issue 3. Pp 558-560. October.


ISEAS Perspectives

  • Norshahril Saat, Nur Syafiqah Mohd Taufek, and Afra Alatas, “Rethinking Extremism Beyond Physical Violence: Anti-Shia Hostility in Malaysia.” ISEAS Perspective, 16 June 2021
  • • Norshahril Saat. “The UMNO General Assembly and the Rocky Road back to Putrajaya,” ISEAS Perspective 2021/52, 23 April 2021
  • Norshahril Saat, “The South Kalimantan Gubernatorial Election: Oligarchic, Bureaucratic, and Dangdut Politics,” ISEAS Perspective, No.7 2021, 28 January 2021.
  • Aninda Dewayanti and Norshahril Saat, “Islamic Organizations and Environmentalism in Indonesia,” ISEAS Perspective. No.117, 15 October 2020
  • Norshahril Saat. “Malaysia’s Bersatu Remains Split and Faces Uncertain Future,” ISEAS Perspective. No 57. 2 June 2020.
  • Norshahril Saat. “Covid-19: Challenges for Singapore Islamic Studies Graduates.” ISEAS Perspective. No 37. 29 April 2020.
  • Norshahril Saat and Aninda Dewayanti. “Jokowi’s management of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU): A New Order Approach. ISEAS Perspective. No 1. 3 January 2020.
  • Norshahril Saat and Siwage Dharma Negara. Jokowi’s Second-term priorities and challenges: An interview with Luhut B. Pandjaitan. ISEAS Perspective. No 86. 21 October 2019.
  • Norshahril Saat. The UMNO-PAS Unity Charter and its Impact. ISEAS Perspective. 15 October 2019.
  • Norshahril Saat. A Complicated Political Reality Awaits the Malays. ISEAS Perspectives. 21 May 2019.
  • Norshahril Saat and Fauzan Arif Roslee. Islamic Universities and Their Impact on Singapore Graduates. ISEAS Perspectives. 20 April 2019.
  • Norshahril Saat and Nur Diyana Zait. Al-Azhar University and the Strengths of Informal Learning on Singapore Graduates. ISEAS Perspective 2 April 2019
  • Norshahril Saat. The Implications of a Ma’ruf Amin Vice-Presidency in Indonesia. ISEAS Perspective 4 March 2019.
  • Norshahril Saat. UMNO Revival: Reaffirmation of Ideology or Reform? ISEAS Perspectives No 71. 15 November 2018.
  • Norshahril Saat. Will PAS Governments in Kelantan and Terengganu Push for Islamic Laws? ISEAS Perspective No 33. 25 June 2018.
  • Norshahril Saat. PAS’ Fate in Kelantan in 2018: A Repeat of 1978? ISEAS Perspective No 12. 1 March 2018.
  • ISEAS Researchers. Southeast Asia Outlook 2018, ISEAS Perspective No 1. 2 Jan 2018.
  • Norshahril Saat. Johor Survey 2017: Attitudes Towards Islam, Governance and The Sultan. 10 November 2017. ISEAS Perspective No 83.
  • Siwage Dharma Negara, Norshahril Saat and Jason Salim. A Chance for France: President Hollande’s 2017 Visit to Southeast Asia. 2 May 2017. ISEAS Perspective No 28.
  • Norshahril Saat. Malaysia Capitalizes on Saudi King Salman’s Visit. 8 March 2017. ISEAS Perspective No. 14 2017.
  • Norshahril Saat (co-authored with Daljit Singh, Malcolm Cook and Tang Siew Mun). 2017 Southeast Asia Outlook 2017. 2017. ISEAS Perspective No.1.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2016. Exclusivist Attitudes in Malaysian Islam Have Multifarious Roots. ISEAS Perspective No 39. 5 July 2016.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2015. UMNO General Assembly 2015: Najib’s Call for Unity and Loyalty is Hardly Enough. ISEAS Perspective No 72. 29 December 2015.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2015. Nahdlatul Ulama’s 33rd Congress: Ma’ruf Amin’s Rise and its Impact on Indonesia’s Traditionalist Islam. ISEAS Perspective No 48. 8 September 2015.
  • Norshahril Saat. 2015. The State and the Ulama: Comparing Indonesia and Malaysia. ISEAS Perspective No 11. 26 February 2015.


Opinion pieces and ISEAS Commentaries

  • Since 2011, he has also published 177 opinion and think pieces, including those in local newspapers such as the Straits Times, Berita Harian, Berita Mediacorp and Today; and international newspapers such as the South China Morning Post, Stars Insight, Channel News Asia, Canberra Times, Bangkok Post and the Jakarta Post.