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The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: a reassessment

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John Sidel|
East West Centre, ISEAS publishing (September 2007)

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 LSE


Asia Times Online
De-demonizing Southeast Asian Islam
At last the academic community is standing up to the myths being perpetuated about Islam and Muslim identity in Southeast Asia. For years scholars and area specialists have lain supine as the roller-coaster of the 'war against terror' has ridden roughshod over truth and history concerning the region's nearly 300-million-strong Muslim community. Kudos to British political scientist John Sidel for his brief and biting essay The Islamic Threat in Southeast Asia: a reassessment" that seeks to redress the appalling imbalance....

Press cuttings

Seven Days, United Arab Emirates
Prosperity key to curbing terrorism (10 Oct 07)
There's a big need to 'de-demonise' the way Islamic 'fundamentalism' is being viewed today.
A London School of Economics professor and British political scientist John Sidel has done a great job of this in a stinging essay titled The Islamic Threat in South East Asia: a reassessment. 

Purchase this book from the publisher| (ISEAS)

Purchase this book from the publisher| (East West Centre)