Workshop on Islamic Developments in Southeast Asia

A full-day public workshop on Islamic Developments in Southeast Asia was held in ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute on the 16th of Nov, 2015 in conjunction with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Singapore.

The Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS) Programme at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute convened the workshop on Islamic Developments in Southeast Asia on 16 November 2015. This one-day workshop focused on Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore; and brought together ten scholars who spoke on themes such as civil society, politics and the ulama in Malaysia; law and education in Malaysia; Middle Eastern influence on Islamic institutions in Indonesia; and Middle East influence on Singapore Islamic institutions.

Keynote speaker, Executive Director, Kalam Research & Media, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mr Sohail Nakhoda, kicked off the workshop, followed by panels discussing issues pertaining to civil society, and the current political landscape impacting religious and legal apparatuses in Malaysia.

The workshop’s papers explored issues such as the contemporary networks and flows of students, teachers, and literature from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, and within the region; understand the evolving nature of Shariah courts, bureaucracies and civil service; and the emergence and presence of Islamic culture/politics in contemporary society as well as the reaction from both Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

The Middle Eastern Islam impacted Southeast Asia in several forms. We observe Salafi, Sufi and Muslim Brotherhood ideology influencing the religious discourse in this region. Political events that happened in the Middle East-such as the ISIS threat and Arab Spring- were also discussed here.

Most papers in the Islamic Developments in SEA Workshop focus on the impact of Salafism (known as Wahabism) in Malaysia and Indonesia. Yet, some papers point out the nexus between Salafism and rising conservatism in Southeast Asia is ambiguous because there are other forces at play: historical, political, educational, and institutional. Also, the “Middle East” impact is not always negative. The discourse in Indonesia demonstrates how transmission of liberal Muslim ideas from the Middle East led to  greater religious plurality vis-à-vis Malaysia and Singapore.

The workshop co-ordinators were Dr Terence Chong and Dr Norshahril Saat.

Close to 100 participants from various government bodies, academia and media attended the full-day session.

The workshop was featured in Berita Mediacorp’s digital site. For more details on the news coverage, click on the link here.