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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Essay on Anthony H. Johns' Islam in Southeast Asia

Essay on Anthony H. Johns' Islam in Southeast Asia

I was surprised to know that Islam has never really been able to penetrate the entire Southeast Asia. Based on the article by Anthony Johns (1975), he mentioned that it was only in Indonesia and Malaysia where Islam had been fully appreciated. This was considered as disappointing by the author because even if there were already so many references and materials available about Islam, it was still difficult to establish a specific role of Islam in the history and the current status of Southeast Asia.

Johns mentioned several reasons as to why Islam remained underappreciated in Southeast Asia. One of these reasons was that there was tremendous fragmentation in the Southeast Asian region (Johns 33). I agree with this opinion of Johns because not all countries in this region believe in Islam as their primary religion. Other countries in Southeast Asia also follow Hinduism, Catholicism and Christianity, so it is definitely hard to determine the role or influence of Islam in Southeast Asia if only one or two countries are following Islam. This simply reflects of the fact that while Islam is a respected and powerful religion, it does not dominate the whole world. It is undeniable that Islam has many followers all over the world, but it still remains one of the many options in terms of religion that people can choose from. In Southeast Asia, it is clear that Malaysia and Indonesia are the main countries that practice Islam, but there are eleven countries in this region and the rest of the countries do not follow Islam. This is why it will be hard to make conclusions about the influence of Islam in Southeast Asia when it is clear it is not the most dominant religion in the region. Islam is part of the culture of Southeast Asia and helps to make it very interesting.

Johns admitted in the article that there is an absence of a stable core of Islamic civilization and learning in Southeast Asia which contributed to its lack of development. To make matters even worse, the indigenous written records about Islam in this region have been lost. Thus, the only fact that can be determined is that studies can be done to determine the level of influence of Islam in Indonesia, Malaysia or even Brunei and East Timor, as these are the main countries that follow Islam. Doing such a study for the whole Southeast Asia will most likely produce inconclusive results.

My overall reaction to this article by Johns is that I think he is trying to persuade more researchers to conduct more studies about Islam in Southeast Asia. This article was written in 1975, and so I could understand that not much information can be accessed during that time about the influence of Islam in Southeast Asia. I think Johns made this study to serve as a wake up call that Islam remains under-appreciated in Southeast Asia unlike in the Middle East where it reigns supreme. However, I do not think that any study can come out with very conclusive and convincing results with regard to the influence of Islam in Southeast Asia unless the rest of the countries start to follow Islam also. I believe that because Islam does not dominate Southeast Asia, the most conclusive studies can only include the countries that practice Islam. At present, this is how far studies can go unless a miracle happens that countries in this region start dropping their religions in favour of Islam. Nonetheless, I admire Johns for coming up with this study because it helped to open the eyes of the people in Southeast Asia that their region is very diverse and Islam is a religion that they need to respect.

Cited Works

Johns, Anthony. 1975. “Islam in Southeast Asia: Reflections and New Directions.” Indonesia, No. 19, pp. 33-55

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