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Southeast Asia, Islam in

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Southeast Asia, Islam in

    About 220 million Muslims live in an archipelago that stretches from southern Thailand through Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and north to the southern Philippines. Additional isolated pockets of Muslims live in Burma (Myanmar), northern and southern Thailand, and Cambodia. The majority of Muslims in the archipelago speak Malay or one of its variants. Islam spread to the region in the twelfth century via Arab-controlled trade involving the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Islamic philosophy and accounts of the great Muslim kingdoms of West and Central Asia offered indigenous rulers both justification and model for rule. Islam was successful in the archipelago despite preexisting Hinduism and Buddhism because it was initially accepted and later imposed by rulers on the population. Islam was transmitted in Malay, which was the language of all classes. Thus, Islam came to be associated with the state and the Malay language. An extensive and complex literature inspired by Islam developed. During the colonial period, religion was divorced from the state. Islam became a vehicle of protest and anticolonial agitation. West Asian reform movements arrived in the late nineteenth century, sparking an Islamic revival. In the postindependence period, Islam has been institutionalized in governmental ministries and offices of religious affairs in Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, and Indonesia. Islamic parties are contributors to the political process in all but Thailand and the Philippines, where Muslim minorities sometimes resist the government in the name of Islam.

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