Understanding Islamophobia in Southeast Asia

Authored by: Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman

The Routledge International Handbook of Islamophobia

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815353751
eBook ISBN: 9781351135559
Adobe ISBN:


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Islamophobia is one of the most significant forms of intolerance that has manifested itself in the contemporary context. The academic literature on this phenomenon is extensive and has been well documented in the Western context. Despite the worst manifestations of Islamophobia within the Asian contexts – exemplified by the genocide of the Rohingya community in Myanmar, the widespread persecution of Muslims in India and the rise of anti-Muslim online expressions resulting from the conservative turn in Muslim societies in Malaysia, there has been little written on Islamophobia in Asia. This chapter seeks to narrow this gap in the literature on Islamophobia by analysing two cases of Islamophobia, namely in Thailand and the Philippines. These two cases represent a diverse range of contexts. Thailand is a mainly Buddhist majority state whereas Philippines is a Christian majority state. Both countries have seen long-standing Muslim insurgencies in the restive provinces of Pattani (Thailand) and Mindanao (Philippines). This chapter argues that Islamophobia in Thailand and Philippines is rooted in Muslim insurgencies which could be traced to an early colonial policy that now has taken its own forms due to the increasingly religious nature of these conflicts and violence perpetrated against non-Muslims by Muslim insurgency movements. There are three parts to this chapter. First, the chapter will examine the current literature on Islamophobia and propose a conceptual framework from which Islamophobia in the Asian contexts can be understood. Second, the chapter will analyse the historical factors for the rise of Islamophobia and the contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia in these societies. Last, the chapter will examine the impact of this study as a framework in understanding Islamophobia in conflictual areas. While the Muslim populace in both Philippines and Thailand are diverse and not limited to the Muslims in the south of both countries, for the purposes of this paper, the analysis of Islamophobia will focus on the Moro Muslims (Philippines) and Malay Muslims (Thailand).

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