SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Debating Secularism in Muslim Southeast Asia

Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, Postdoctoral Associate at SOAS (Department of Politics and International Relations), Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University

Date: 6 December 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 6 December 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B201

Type of Event: Seminar


The issue of secularism has been hotly-debated in the Muslim world for a long time, especially so in recent years. Unlike in the Western world, the term is  contested and not universally accepted, with proponents and opponents of the concept being applied in Muslim societies. Muslim Southeast Asia is no different: the debates surrounding secularism have been vigorous and robust, with different viewpoints being put forth by Muslim intellectuals and religious elites. This study focuses on the role of the ulama, the Islamic religious elites, and investigates their roles in the discourses of secularism in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. I make the following arguments: 1) the nature of the discourse itself matters on the political opportunity structures of the ulama in the various countries; and 2) more broadly, the political realities of each nation affects how 'Islam' itself is understood by the ulama.

Speaker Biography

Walid is a postdoctoral fellow at SOAS, London, while concurrently serving as a Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University. He works on state-religion relations, Islam and the state, and Southeast Asian politics. Some of his works have appeared in international journals such as International Political Science Review, Government and Opposition, Asian Survey, Journal of Church and State, Indonesia and the Malay World, Small Wars & Insurgencies, amongst others.

Organiser: Centre of South East Asian Studies

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