Muslim piety in Southeast Asia mirrors increased religious traditionalism

Open in Browser Muslim Piety in Southeast Asia Reflects Rising Religious Traditionalism in the Middle EastJames M. DorseySep 28 ▷ LISTENSAVE Thank you to everyone who has shown their appreciation for my column by becoming a paying subscriber. That way I can make sure it continues to have maximum impact. Maintaining free distributions means news sites, blogs, and newsletters around the world can republish them.

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Upgrade to paid A podcast version is available on Soundcloud, Itunes, Spotify, Spreaker and Podbean.LISTEN NOW · 10:29 AM A just-released poll of Muslims in Southeast Asia, mirroring recent polls in the Middle East, points to the central role of Islam in people’s daily lives and choices. The poll was released days after former Indonesian social affairs minister Habib Salim Segaf Al-Jufri was appointed secretary-general of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), led by controversial Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the world’s leading Muslim theologian associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Al-Qaradawi died in Doha on Monday at the age of 96. Interestingly, Mr. Al-Jufri, a senior member of the Indonesian fraternal Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), also represents the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). in East and Southeast Asia, a Saudi government-funded organization originally established in the 1970s to promote Saudi religious ultraconservatism worldwide. Since 2016, the group has been redirected to promote Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as a reformer pushing the kingdom towards a more moderate and tolerant interpretation of Islam in a populous Muslim-majority country and democracy, forging an unlikely alliance with Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League. Like WAMY, the League, once a primary vehicle for spreading Wahhabism worldwide, has become Mr. Bin Salman’s primary vehicle in his effort to amass religious soft power and promote an autocratic version of Islam that is socially liberal but demands absolute obedience to the ruler . Both will have influenced the responses of the 1,000 people sampled in the survey of Southeast Asian Muslims.

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But the events place the poll in a context where Muslim organizations, whether state-controlled or not, are promoting differing concepts of a moderate interpretation of Islam, making the perceived legitimacy or illegitimacy of political Islam one of their main drivers. Bin Salman, who is driving social reform against a background of a history of promoting ultraconservative dominance, may be more concerned about the growing importance of traditional Islam than about governments in Southeast Asia, whose history and encounter with Islam are often influenced by local culture. tradition and mysticism. Nonetheless, politicians and business leaders in Southeast Asia, home to 276.5 million Muslims who make up 40 percent of the region’s population, are likely to take note of the Southeast Asian poll, as well as recent polls in the Center East amid perceptions of greater religious conservatism in their countries , which are consistent not only with trends in other parts of the Muslim world, but also in major non-Muslim faith groups around the world.

Malaysia and Indonesia, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, emerged as the top four halal markets in this year’s Global Islamic Economy Indicator, compiled by US research and advisory firm DigiStandard. The indicator takes into account different sectors including halal food and Islam finance, Muslim-friendly travel, recreation and media. Malaysia maintained its long-standing top position thanks to a 20 percent surge in investment in Sharia-compliant funds and the success of its Islamic cartoons for children-based consulting firms, Wunderman Thompson Intelligence and YMLY&R-founded Muslim Intel Lab last year, denoting a strong relationship with Allah as very important. Next in importance was wealth, which only mattered to 34 percent of respondents, followed by 28 percent who pursued their passions and 12 percent who cared about fame. 84 percent of respondents in Malaysia and Indonesia said they pray five times a day. 33 percent self-identified as more observant than their parents, 45 percent said they were as observant as their parents, and 21 percent said they were less observant. The increasing importance of religion was highlighted by the surveys in the Middle East 41 percent of 3,400 young Arabs aged 18 to 24 in 17 Arab countries said that religion was the most important element of their identity, with nationality, family and/or tribe , Arab heritage and gender lagged far behind. That is 7 percent more than a year earlier. The Middle East polls further showed that a majority disagreed with the notion that “we should listen to those of us who are trying to interpret Islam in a more moderate, tolerant, and modern way.” In many ways, the Southeast Asian poll was more detailed because it focused on Muslim consumer behavior. The powerful Indonesian Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) its de facto monopoly on Halal certification by opening the sector to competition. Halal certificates are big business. The Halal Product Assistance Agency issues the certificates based on a fatwa issued by the council to companies in the fields of food, fashion, education, pharmacy, cosmetics, tourism, media, travel, medicine, health, arts, culture and finance. The vast majority of 91 percent of respondents in Southeast Asia said whether a product is halal is very important to their purchasing decision. At the same time, 83 percent identified Halal with certification by an Islamic body. Sixty-one percent include Halal in their banking and investment preferences. Seventy-seven percent said the availability of halal facilities is important when choosing their travel destination. 85 percent wanted a metaverse specifically geared towards Muslims, and 53 percent used prayer and Quran apps. Overall, comparison of the polls suggests that religion is playing an increasing role in people’s lives in the Muslim world beyond the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, the poll underscores the importance of the efforts of groups like Nahdlatul Ulama, a humanitarian interpretation of Islam to promote that is tolerant, pluralistic and respectful of human and minority rights. In the Middle East, the polls are questioning autocratic leaders whose concept of moderate Islam calls for social reforms to meet youth aspirations, enable economic diversification and religiously legitimize their absolute power as part of a regime survival strategy Cradle of religious reforms in the Muslim world. Nahdlatul Ulama seems to think it can do that by convincing people like the Muslim World League. Reform must be genuine and holistic, not self-serving. It’s an if with a capital I in a strategy that’s as risky as it is bold.dr James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar, Adjunct Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, and author of the column and blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.