The Religious Geography of Thailand's Malay Southern Provinces: Revisiting the Impact of South Asian and Middle Eastern Transnational Islamic Movements
- Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 35, Number 2, July 2020
- pp. 343-363
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- Additional Information
This article describes changes in the 'religious geography' of Thailand's Malay-dominated southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat since the 1960s. These have been led by a range of religious entrepreneurs returning to these parts of southern Thailand from the Middle East and South Asia. We begin by conceptualizing local Islamic diversity in ways that move beyond binaries such as the new and old schools (kaum muda–kaum tua) and accept that the vast majority of Malays in southern Thailand remain conservative, rural traditionalists. We provide relevant details about the background, overseas educational influences and the forms of religious activism pursued by leaders of local modernist, reformist and revivalist religious franchises. We also point out the different strategies pursued by these religious entrepreneurs and that the operational centres for many of these movements are located in Yala. This article argues that Middle Eastern influences in southern Thailand have been exaggerated, while South Asian influences have been overlooked, and that the Malaysian State of Kelantan has played an important role in diversifying the religious geography of these southern provinces.