Seminar on Alternative Voices in Muslim Southeast Asia: Discourse and Struggles

About the Seminar

Observers have always regarded Southeast Asia as the bastion of “moderate” Islam. Muslims here respect local beliefs, traditions, and culture while holding on to religious values. Yet, within the last decade, there has been a significant rise in piety among Muslims in the region. Lately, Malaysian and Indonesian politicians show signs of an Islamist-turn. They are either allying themselves with the conservative ulama or giving the more space to these religious elites to promote their ideas.

Despite the growing conservative voice in Muslim Southeast Asia, there are groups promoting alternative discourses. These groups reckon that religious texts have to be interpreted in today’s context. They also urge the conservative religious elites to appreciate Southeast Asia’s multiculturalism, and not simply taking the lead from Middle East ulamas. Their engagements with the conservatives usually occur at the discursive level. Yet, how successful have these voices been able to reverse the trend of rising conservatism?

This half-day seminar invites academics, activists, and practitioners from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore who are actively promoting alternative discourses to mainstream ones in their respective countries. They will share their views on contemporary issues dealing with governance, human rights, laws, gender and inter-faith and intra-faith issues. This public seminar targets academics, students, activists and policy makers.

Speakers will showcase the challenges and struggles faced by groups championing alternative discourses in the face of growing conservative climate. It examines how states or quasi-state institutions police groups or individuals promoting alternative discourses in contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia. The seminar hopes to understand whether there are other disciplining mechanisms applied to these group. In return, what are the avenues in which the progressives utilise in championing their vision?

Seminar programme: Download Programme.

Registration: Attendance at this event is free of charge but registration is required by 24 August 2018. As seats are limited, please register early. Admission to the event will be taken as confirmed upon written acceptance from ISEAS.

For any queries, please feel free to email:

To register, please complete this registration form and e-mail at


Sep 04 2018


8:30 am - 2:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 1 & 2