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The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: A Reassessment

by 

John T. Sidel

Policy Studies, No. 37

Publisher:

Washington, D.C.: East-West Center; Singapore: ISEAS Publishing

Available From: Amazon.com and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 978-981-230-489-6
Binding: paper
Pages: xi, 74

 

In Asia, print and electronic versions of this publication may be purchased from ISEAS Publishing; outside Asia, hardcopies of this publication may be purchased from Amazon.com.

In recent years, a steady stream of reportage and commentary has spotlighted a dangerous "Islamist threat" in Southeast Asia. This study, by contrast, offers a very different account. In descriptive terms, this study suggests that such an alarmist picture is highly overdrawn, and it traces instead a pattern of marked decline, demobilization, and disentanglement from state power in recent years for Islamist forces in Southeast Asia. This trend is evident both in the disappointments experienced in recent years by previously ascendant Islamist forces in Indonesia and Malaysia, and in the diminished position of Muslim power brokers in southern Thailand and the Philippines after more than a decade of cooperation with non-Muslim politicians in Manila and Bangkok. In explanatory terms, moreover, this study shows the significance of social and political context. A fuller appreciation of aggression by anti-Islamists and non-Muslims, and of the insecurity, weakness, and fractiousness of Islamist forces themselves, helps to explain the nature, extent, and limitations of Islamist violence, aggression, and assertiveness. This overarching alternative framework not only provides a very different explanation for the "Islamist threat" in Southeast Asia, but also suggests very different policy implications from those offered by specialists on terrorism working on the region.

This is the thirty-seventh publication in Policy Studies, a peer-reviewed East-West Center Washington series that presents scholarly analysis of key contemporary domestic and international political, economic, and strategic issues affecting Asia in a policy relevant manner.

John T. Sidel is the Sir Patrick Gillam Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

 

Review

De-demonizing Southeast Asian Islam, by Michael Vatikiotis. In Asia Times Online (August 22, 2007)