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1 the national bureau of asian research nbr project report | april 2009 Transnational Islam in Asia: Background, Typology and Conceptual Overview Peter Mandaville Peter Mandaville is Associate Professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs and Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies at George Mason University. His recent publications include Global Political Islam (2007), Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma (2001), and several co-edited volumes and anthologies such as Globalizing Religions (forthcoming). Executive Summary This paper provides an overview of the history of transnational Islam in South and Southeast Asia, identifying key vectors of religious transmission and points of continuity between historical and contemporary patterns of cross-regional Islamic discourse. The paper proposes that contemporary manifestations of transnational Islam problematize conventional categorizations of movements and political ideologies through frequent cross-fertilization acrosspoliticalandmilitanttendencies.Thepaperfurthersuggeststhattheemerginggeography of globalized Islam calls into question the extent to which political manifestations of Islam can be analyzed with exclusive reference to local circumstances or sources of discontent. Main Findings Manifestations of contemporary transnational Islam in South and Southeast Asia occur in four primary forms: Sufi brotherhoods, renewalist/pietistic movements, Islamist parties and groups, charitable organizations and da’wa organizations; the primary conduits for the cross-border transmission of Islam today include scholarly exchange and study abroad, labor migration, new media, and ritual obligations (e.g. pilgrimage). Influences from transnational Islam do not involve the subversion or eradication of local religious sensibilities but rather a far more complex dynamic whereby external ideas and beliefs are adapted to and grafted onto existing worldviews and conditions. Transnational Islam is not exclusively about religion but can sometimes represent a vocabulary through which broader global debates about political and socioeconomic disenfranchisement can be engaged. The fluidity of transnational Islam on the ground in specific country contexts is such that the social reality of such movement rarely corresponds exactly to the categories and orientations suggested by conventional analytical typologies (e.g. sharp distinctions between ‘modernist’ and ‘traditionalist’ groups). Policy implications The involvement of transnational Islamic groups in a localized conflict is frequently associated • • with an escalation dynamic that raises the ideological stakes of the dispute through association with ‘global’ Muslim causes and by introducing new resources (ideational and material) into the conflict equation. Transnational Islamic groups leverage the political sentiments that accrue from both government • • responses to Muslim grievances and to broader geopolitical issues (e.g. global war on terror, war on Iraq) to build local constituencies. At least one form of transnational Islamic networking—that between political parties and • • movements operating in the ‘justice and development’ mold—holds the potential to serve as an effective and largely democratic space for the aggregation of Muslim discontent and the pursuit of social justice in the name of Islam. The complex geographies of transnational Islam, which involve organizations and diasporas • • located well beyond the confines of South and Southeast Asia, mean that efforts to exert policy influence on Muslim actors in the region may well involve interventions and actors located in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. 3 Transnational Islam in Asia u Mandaville W hile the theme of transnational Islam in Asia most readily brings to mind recent events in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, or networks and movements such as Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and the Taliban, transnational Islamic influences in South and Southeast Asia have a long and complex history dating back hundreds of years. And, while it is these contemporary groups and conflict situations that will constitute the primary focus of the present study, it is important both to contextualize them in historical terms, and to gain a better understanding of how they relate to the diverse range of transnational Islamic currents to be found in the region today. How were the conduits through which contemporary Muslim social and political activists operate between Asia and the Middle East—or, indeed, within Asia itself—first established? How have mainstream mass Islamist movements from the Arab world, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, influenced politics and conflict dynamics in South and Southeast Asia, and how do they intersect with radical and militant groups? Where do centuries-old Sufi networks and more recent pietist movements, such as the Tablighi Jama’at, fit into the picture of contemporary transnational Islam in the region? This paper provides the historical background necessary for understanding the role of transnational Islam in Asia today. Beginning with a brief survey of Islam’s transmission to Asia from the Middle East, this section of the paper...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781939131027
MARC Record
OCLC
867796827
Pages
208
Launched on MUSE
2013-06-27
Language
English
Open Access
No
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