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Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia Paperback – July 9, 2002
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From the Back Cover
Recently there has been keen interest in Islam from the non-Muslim world as well as a push for improved Muslim-Christian relations. This timely book makes an important contribution on both of these fronts by telling the story of Islam in Southeast Asia -- a region of the world now drawing increased international attention.
Although Muslims of the Malay race are the largest ethnic community of Muslims in the world, they are little known in the Western hemisphere. Writing as an American Christian missionary who lived among Malay Muslims in the Philippines for over forty years, Robert Day McAmis provides the first comprehensive look at Malay Muslims, describing their history, practices, influence, and distinctive customs. McAmis also gives special attention to the history of their relationship with Christians -- a history that is key to understanding the current state of religious and social life in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Since Muslims and Christians together comprise ninety-four percent of the Malay population, peaceful interaction and cooperation between mosque and church are crucial to realizing the economic and political goals of the entire region.
Considering the so-called Islamic resurgence of the last few decades, McAmis pleads for dialogue and mutual understanding. Islam is not monolithic, he says, and Muslims are not the enemies of Christians. Malay Muslims in particular, with their diverse traditions and rich history of international relations, are open to outside influence and exchange. McAmis concludes that the future of Malay Southeast Asia is bright indeed if Muslims and Christians of goodwill work together to solve the problemsof this area.
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The title is misleading when the author's special interest is Christian relations in, especially, the Philippines. "Resurgence" here is pre "terrorism" but is covered superficially after the first useful step of identifying its several strains. The discussion of "Fundamentalism" and roles of modern and traditional intellectuals is curtailed.
Much is superficial: no analysis of the ways in which made converts were made should now omit processes of discourse and adaptation, the central role of places like Acheh and Malacca, the myth and facts behind the Wali Songo of Indonesia. Nor can discussion of resurgence and modern thought miss so much of the very active Islamic debate in Indonesia where the author denies the importance of Islamic parties (Indonesia has the two largest in the entire Islamic world and elected as President the head of one just after this book was published).
Complaining about policies restricting Christian conversion efforts in Malaysia the author condemns policy with no understanding of how British "hands off" policy regarding Islam led to a very great impact from importing Chinese and Indians in considerable numbers effectively handicapping Malays in their own country. Whether or not continuation is legitimate the Malaysian policies have been "affirmative action" to offset this dire aspect of British colonial rule.
Even talking about his forte, religion, McAmis leaves much to be desired. His attempts at good will (welcome and all too rare of late) still leave him terribly judgmental about Islam and he imports older sources calling it "Mohammedanism" (both insulting and misleading) without comment. The importance of practice over belief - orthopraxy over orthodoxy - is neglected. Differences in ideas of original sin, redemption, and the institutional differences as well as the importance of these is missed. This is part of a pattern of being somewhat out of date despite an appended biography that attempts to list more recent sources. There is no "Southeast Asia centric" causation here (a focus since the 60's); one might mistake Dutch conquest as completed nearly two hundred years before this was so; local trade and its continuing important roles are ignored. Much of the more recent work on Indonesia by the likes of Bowen, Hefner, Woodward, Siegel, and others is ignored. The picture of Malaysian Islam is simplistic. Despite some historical notes of Islam's former strength, the discussion of the Philippines is almost as much about Christians and ecumenical attempts without appreciating the Muslim case for autonomy after a long and bitter history of Christian forces.
Malaysia was named Malaya, later Malaysia, by the British and the name has stuck. That does not make large groups of Sumatra Indonesians less Malays. In fact, most of them proudly speak about themselves as Malays and acknowledge that Bahasa Indonesia derives from Bahasa Melayu.
Likewise, 16-18th century kingdoms like that of Johor-Riau can, according to Mr Lim, not be studied, since its territory is now split between three states, Johor (Malaysia), Singapore and Riau (Indonesia). The influential religious capital of this kingdom was on the Riau island itself, and the regicide of 1699 is one of the most important events in Malay history ever.
The very name 'Malay' comes from Sungai Melayu, which was a river system between Jambi and Siak. Namewise, the Orang Laut of this river system were the original 'Malays'.