Islamic Roots of Identity in Xinjiang, China

Memo #188 – Among the numerous cultural restrictions aimed at China’s Uyghur population, the Chinese government focuses particularly intently on control of religious activities. This past Ramadan saw an increase in state-imposed restrictions on ordinary Islamic practices among the Uyghurs. Since Beijing proclaims support for a distinct Uyghur identity while suppressing Islamic practices, it is worth reconsidering the historical connections between identity and Islam among the Uyghurs and their ancestors. Continue reading

Political Parties and Islam in Indonesia: A Religious Façade

Memo # 178 – Portrayals of Indonesian political parties have classified them as either secular or Islamic. This implies that they hold strong core commitments. But Indonesian parties do not espouse a coherent political program during elections. Islamic and secular-nationalist parties alike appeal to the public with populist slogans. Controversial religious issues, such as the role of Sharia law or the status of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect – which could differentiate parties along clear secular-religious lines – are ignored on the campaign trail. Contrary to mainstream analysis, religion plays a minimal role in Indonesia’s party competition. Continue reading

Ending Islamic Solidarity in Post 9/11 Pakistan: New Restrictions on Migrants

Memo #100 – The rise of the “security state” is not just a Western phenomenon. Post 9/11 Pakistan has seen a proliferation of new surveillance technologies that created social divisions and marginalized long-term migrants previously welcomed in the name of Islamic solidarity. Continue reading

The Indonesian Model: Learning from a Muslim Majority Democracy

Memo #86 – With the old autocracies of the Middle East falling and new regimes yet to emerge, policy makers are grasping for models that can inform analysis. U.S. President Obama has proposed the ‘Indonesian model.’ The logic is straightforward: Indonesia is a majority Muslim country that has transitioned from a military dominated autocracy to a democracy. Continue reading

Capital-islam: Spiritual Economies in Southeast Asia

Memo #68 – Is Islam compatible with capitalism? The recent uprisings in the Middle East have prompted renewed interest in this question. In his book, The Long Divergence, the eminent economist, Timur Kuran, suggests that Islam is to blame for the poor economic performance of Islamic countries. But today, a new breed of “spiritual reformers” sees Islam as a recipe for commercial success. Continue reading

Indonesian Handshake Controversy Exposes Challenges Facing Islamist Politicians

Memo #38 – Indonesia’s ‘handshake’ controversy made international news last week. To summarize: the Obamas were being greeted by Indonesian officials, and in the process, Michelle Obama shook the hand of an Islamist politician (and Minister of Communications and Information) named Tifatul Sembiring. Sembiring then went on Twitter to explain that the handshake was unwelcome and forced upon him. Video evidence clearly shows he was dissembling. Continue reading

Governance by Religion Growing Strong in Malaysia: Bureaucratic Islam and Secular Sharia

Memo #22 – Political rivalry between Malaysia’s two largest Muslim parties and an emerging Muslim civil society are obvious causes of the increased impact of Islam in Malaysia. But Islam in the Malaysian polity is also appearing in an unexpected form: as part of a secularizing bureaucracy. Continue reading