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.
“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.