Tuesday, January 16, 2007
A new book by ANU specialists presents the first collation of the many different views of Islam in Southeast Asia from Muslims themselves.
Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook (Hardcover) by Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker(editors)
Chapter 10: ‘Personal Expressions of Faith’This section of the sourcebook covers the rise in religiosity; the pillars of the religion; Sufism (the spiritual aspect of Islam); manifestations of piety, including views on education, health and healing, and dress; and Islamic culture and civilisation.
Some of the primary material was collected by Hooker, who interviewed a range of Indonesians about their views of their religion. The following extract, where a young girl describes the connection between identity and head dress, is from one of those sources:
“So I think I really have to demonstrate my Islamic identity in the way that the Qur’an stipulates, that is, by wearing a headscarf. This also differentiates me from other people. When people see someone walking without a headscarf, they’re unsure about their identity – whether they are Muslim or not – but if they see a woman wearing a headscarf they see straight away the Muslim identity of that person.” Khairunisa, pg 120
When the first draft of the sourcebook was presented to the consultative committee of Southeast Asian Muslims for “frank feedback”, the predominant suggestion by those gathered in Canberra was the addition of the opening chapter, Personal Expressions of Faith.
“The Personal Expressions chapter aims to reflect what it means to be a good Muslim to individuals in the region. Its inclusion has become very important to introducing Islam as a religion without having to do it in an obvious way,” Hooker says.
The issue of dress – particularly the headscarf – is also addressed from different perspectives in the Gender and the Family chapter of the book (in Indonesia the headscarf is called jilbab, while in Malaysia it is called tudung). Contentious issues and their place within Islam – work, polygamy and abortion – are also discussed in this revealing chapter by ANU academic Dr Sally White.
All of the book’s extracts are from primary sources, including the writings of clerics, academics, politicians, journalists, rebel leaders, heads of government and ‘lay’ Muslims. The editors have attempted to authentically preserve these writings throughout the translations, reflecting the original form as much as possible.
The sourcebook also contains 21 colour plates, including paintings, cartoons and photographs of significant Islamic sites and leaders.
“We had a group of people and combed websites, libraries and newsletters, and along with our own sources tried to identify key primary sources representing a spectrum of views,” Hooker says.
“We chose extracts based on their representativeness, that they represented a particular stream of view in an articulate manner,” Fealy says. “We then just tried to explain the material in as even-handed a way as possible and let people decide what makes the particular extract distinctive.”
“The main thing for us is that we have accurately portrayed the views of Southeast Asian Muslims, and that we have provided the information without passing judgement so the reader can make up their own minds.”
The Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australian Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.