Islam In Southeast Asia

The region of Southeast Asia is North of Australia and South of China with a very diverse population. The countries which are a part of that continent are Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to name some. A combination of Islands and mainlands.

These areas generally suffer economically as opposed to surrounding areas and so the majority of the population shares the load, however the differences in religion are vast, mixing Hinduism, animism, Buddhism as well as Islam. So mosques and temples are very close to each other. Here we will look at Islam and its relation to Southeast Asia.

The Ninth Century

The spread of trade and cultures didn’t occur until the perfection of vessels that were able to carry people across large bodies of water. This was enjoyed by Arab mariners who begin to engage with the people of that region. It was during this time that Islamic influences really got its start.

Muslims were establishing colonies in Sumatra as part of their trade routes from where it naturally spread out until it really took hold in the 12th century.

The Majority

Islam makes for the majority of the religious demographic in the area which is around 42%. The reason for this goes back to when the Chola dynasty from India invaded by the sea, who were actually Hindus in the 12th century but abandoned their faith for Islam around 1136. This religion was introduced by Muslims from the Aceh region in Indonesia.

It stands to reason that the reason it dominates is because of the additional influence of mineral and resource wealth that comes with the religion where they are able to influence better through materialism compared to religions that do not such as Buddhism and others.

Differences With The Middle East

In this world of social media a discussion that went viral occurred between a guest and a opinionated news anchor who were talking about the kind of oppression that Islam enforces in where the religion dominates. Specifically it talked about oppression of women and in this discussion it was said that Indonesia is a perfect example of an Islamic country but with equal rights for women. This is becoming a more widely distributed fact.

On top of this Islam was modernised and adapted to local beliefs by Sufis, which is unique only through throughout Southeast Asia and with the help of local governments.

Non-Denominational?

Even with so many different beliefs in the area, there is a sense that one isn’t better than the other to the point where architecture with belief has created new ideas to support. It’s very easy to see these influences in the area and as they economical situations improve the assurance that they all can share their beliefs grows stronger.


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