Religious Minorities and Democracy in Southeast Asia: New Trajectories and New Approaches
Time & LocationSession 12
Fri 15:30–17:00 Room 1.101
- Chiara Formichi Cornell University
Save This EventAdd to Calendar
- Authoritarianism and Religious Minorities: Shi’ites in Singapore and Malaysia Walid Jumblatt bin Abdullah Nanyang Technological University
This paper analyzes the predicament of the Shi’ite community in Singapore and Malaysia. I make the following claims. Firstly, Shi’ites in both Singapore and Malaysia have had more space to practice their faith, ironically, when the electoral arena has been less competitive, and when the states have been more authoritarian. When the previous ruling Barisan Nasional’s rule became more tenuous in Malaysia, prior to the victory of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, the ruling Malay elites turned to ethno-nationalism, which involved emphasizing a particular orthodoxy (Sunni-Shafie), Shi’ites were at the receiving end of the increased discrimination and even repression. In Singapore, however, Shi’ites have steadily been given mainstream attention and there is no significant Sunni-Shi’ite tension to speak of. Secondly, I postulate that regime types in and by themselves do not guarantee better or worse treatment for religious minorities within the Islamic faith. Rather, what matters more is ideological predispositions of religious elites, or the ulam, and their concomitant interactions with the state.
- Making the Majority in the Name of Islam: Democratization, Moderate-Radial Coalition and Religious Intolerance in Indonesia Kikue Hamayotsu Northern Illinois University
Scholars and observers in the field of Indonesian studies have paid increasing attention to a trend called a “conservative turn” or “religious intolerance” in the Indonesian democracy and Islam. The trend is mostly considered a result of the rising influence of fringe radical groups in civil society or an instrumental use of such groups and religion in general by secular political elites in pursuing state power.
This paper seeks to offer an alternative explanation for the increasing trend of religious intolerance in the process of democratic consolidation, based on my fieldwork and comparative case studies of collective violence against religious minorities, both Muslim and non-Muslim, across West Java. I argue that anti-minority violence is likely to occur when traditional religious elites forge an informal coalition to certify radical elements in the name of defending the majority religion – Islam -- in the face of mounting challenges to the institutional foundations of their religious authority and power. In the context of consolidating democracy that has privileged secular elites, non-Muslim capitals, as well as liberal elements, the traditional religious elites seek to mobilize religious sentiments and collective identity to rally for the Muslim majority. Those religious elites tend to be exceptionally hostile to the concept of religious pluralism, because, as Saba Mahmood aptly argued, they perceive religious pluralism as a political ideology and a tool to bolster the positions of minorities and secular elites who, in their view, have dominated the Indonesian state, economy, and nation-building.
- Minority Candidate and Muslim Voting Behavior: Evidence from Indonesia Nathanael Sumaktoyo University of Notre Dame
How do Muslims in a Muslim-majority society respond to an ethnic and religious minority political candidate? To the extent that there is an opposition to the candidate, would such an opposition be driven more by the candidate’s ethnicity or religion? The existing literature offers few insights on these questions, as it largely focuses on the U.S. or Western countries, and few studies examine how Muslims in a Muslim society evaluate minority candidates. Taking advantage of the presence of an ethnic and religious minority candidate in a gubernatorial election in Indonesian capital Jakarta and employing both observational and experimental designs, I find that ethnic considerations drive voters’ choices more than religious ones. Ethnic sentiment and the candidate’s ethnic background negatively affected voter support for the candidate more than religious sentiment and the candidate’s religious background. This finding holds even after accounting for voters’ religiosity and religious tolerance. I discuss how these findings inform our understanding of Muslim voting behavior and religious mobilization in Muslim countries.
Newly emerging democracies in Southeast Asia have grappled with the deep-seated questions and predicaments that pertain to the legal status and living conditions of religious minority communities. This panel seeks to explore the causes, processes, and consequences of various ways in which a respective regime – both secular and religious authorities – attempt to exclude and/or include religious minorities in the context of political transition and social transformation. The primary country cases to be examined include: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore. Through anthropological, historical and political analysis, the case studies intend to offer not only new empirical findings from the region, but also new analytical approaches, methods, and theories to gain a deeper understanding of the broad questions of minority and civil rights, nation-building, and democracy and religion.