Islamic Reform, Salafism, and the Salafization of state and society in Southeast Asia


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 9
Thu 09:00-10:30 REC A2.06

Part 2

Session 10
Thu 11:00-12:30 REC A2.06



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Movements of Islamic reform have played pivotal roles in reshaping society, culture and the state in Southeast Asia (as well as elsewhere). In the early twentieth century the dominant form of reform was Islamic modernism as exemplified by the various Kaum Muda movements of the Malay-speaking world and Muhammadiyah, Al-Irsyad and Persis in Indonesia. Modernists criticized what they considered as superstition and advocated the reconciliation of Islam with modern science and technology. They embraced rational debate and easily adopted the ideas of nationalism and democracy.
From the 1980s onward, various forms of Salafism gained prominence, largely due to the proselytizing efforts of graduates from Islamic universities in the Arabian Gulf. Unlike earlier reformists, “purist” Salafis focused almost exclusively on the purification of religious beliefs and practices, stayed aloof from politics and rejected many aspects of modern culture. Muslim Brotherhood-influenced “political” Salafis shared the purifying spirit but embraced modern science and technology, organization, and active political involvement. Salafis have remained a minority among Muslims all over Southeast Asia but have had a considerable impact on the gradual “Salafization” of Islam, i.e. the increasing scripturalism, the disappearance of many traditional religious practices that were embedded in local culture, and the emulation of Arabized Muslim lifestyles.
This panel will discuss the various modalities of the impact of Salafism on state and society in Southeast Asia’s Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries. This includes the impact of Salafi discourse on popular culture, such as the “hijabers” and “hijrah” movements, and engagement of Salafis with the state and the various ways in which the state has de facto supported the Salafization of society.