Islam and Society in Southeast Asia

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Islam and Society in Southeast Asia
   No. 33 ISLAM AND SOCIETY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 Barry Desker Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Singapore SEPTEMBER 2002 With Compliments This Working Paper series presents papers in a preliminary form and serves to stimulate comment and discussion. The views expressed are entirely the author’s own and not that of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies      The Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS)  was established in July 1996 as an autonomous research institute within the Nanyang Technological University. Its objectives are to: ã Conduct research on security, strategic and international issues. ã Provide general and graduate education in strategic studies, international relations, defence management and defence technology. ã Promote joint and exchange programmes with similar regional and international institutions; organise seminars/conferences on topics salient to the strategic and policy communities of the Asia-Pacific.   Research Through its Working Paper Series,  IDSS Commentary  and other publications, the Institute seeks to share its research findings with the strategic studies and defence policy communities. The Institute’s researchers are also encouraged to publish their writings in refereed journals. The focus of research is on issues relating to the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and their implications for Singapore and other countries in the region. The Institute has also established the S. Rajaratnam Professorship in Strategic Studies (named after Singapore’s first Foreign Minister), to bring distinguished scholars to participate in the work of the Institute. Previous holders of the Chair include Professors Stephen Walt (Harvard University), Jack Snyder (Columbia University) and Wang Jisi (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). A Visiting Research Fellow Programme also enables overseas scholars to carry out research in the Institute. Teaching The Institute provides educational opportunities at an advanced level to professionals from both the private and public sectors in Singapore and overseas through the Master of Science in Strategic Studies and Master of Science in International Relations programmes. These are full-time courses conducted by an international faculty from July - June each year. In 2002, the Institute inaugurated a PhD programme in Strategic Studies/International Relations. In addition to the graduate programmes, the Institute also conducts courses on geopolitics and regional security issues for the SAFTI Military Institute (Officer Cadet School, Advanced Officers’ School and the Singapore Command & Staff College), the SAF Warrant Officers’ School, as well as the Defence and Foreign Ministries. The Institute also runs a one-semester course on ‘ The International  Relations of the Asia Pacific’ for undergraduates in NTU. Networking The Institute convenes workshops, seminars and colloquia on aspects of international relations and security development which are of contemporary and historical significance. Highlights of the Institute’s activities include a regular Colloquium on Strategic Trends in the 21 st  Century, the annual Asia Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers and the biennial Asia Pacific Security Conference (held in conjunction with Asian Aerospace). Institute staff participate in Track II security dialogues and scholarly conferences in the Asia-Pacific. The Institute has contacts and collaborations with many think-tanks and research institutes in Asia, Europe and the United States. The Institute has also participated in research projects funded by the Ford Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The Institute serves as the Secretariat for the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia- Pacific, (CSCAP) Singapore. Through these activities, the Institute aims to develop and nurture a network of researchers whose collaborative efforts will yield new insights into security issues of interest to Singapore and the region. i  ABSTRACT   This paper discusses the struggle for the soul of Islam within the global Muslim community in the context of two major Muslim majority nations in Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia. An ongoing, unsettled debate between ‘Liberal Islam’ and ‘Literal Islam’ continues unabated. In its midst, evidence of terrorist networks in the region have surfaced. Some extreme proponents of Literal Islam harbour irredentist visions and are committed to establishing an Islamic state unifying the territories of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Philippines and Singapore. Such visions are not compatible with ASEAN cooperative arrangements to encourage increased and intra-regional communications, tourism and trade. This incompatibility raises questions about ASEAN’s cohesion and highlights the inescapable reality in Southeast Asia that the state remains fragile and open to challenge in an era of political instability, economic stagnation and social disruption. ************* Barry Desker is the Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University. He was Singapore's Ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1993. ii    ISLAM AND SOCIETY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the ensuing war in Afghanistan and the recent revelations of the existence of al-Qaeda networks in Southeast Asia have drawn attention to the challenge posed by radical Islamic ideologies to global and regional security. It appears to validate Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis that there is an inevitable conflict between Islam and the West. 1  This is a mistaken view. The uncritical acceptance of such a perspective risks the adoption of self-fulfilling US policies which undermine US relationships with states having Muslim majorities, increases the likelihood of a crescent of instability from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and fosters hostility towards the United States and the West  by Muslims around the globe. Since September 11, Christian fundamentalists in the United States have demonstrated a lack of understanding of Islam. The leading television evangelist Pat Robertson broadcast that Islam “is not a peaceful religion that wants to co-exist…I have taken issue with our esteemed president in regard to his stand in saying that Islam is a  peaceful religion. It’s just not.” 2  Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, claimed: “The God of Islam is not the same God…It’s a very different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.” 3  The danger is that this simplistic view of Islam will  permeate the popular imagination, forming the basis of policy decisions by key government officials in the United States and the West. One example to be avoided is a comment by the Chairman of the US House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia). He told Georgia state law enforcement officials that they should “just turn (the sheriff) loose and have him arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line.” 4   1  Samuel Huntington, “The clash of civilizations?”,  Foreign Affairs , Vol. 72 (3), Summer 1993, pp. 22-49. 2  Alan Cooperman, Washington Post  , 22 February 2002. 3  Franklin Graham, The New York Times , 20 November 2001. 4  Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post  , 21 November 2001. 1
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