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Political Islam in Southeast Asia

Gordon P. Means
Political Islam in Southeast Asia
ISBN: 978-1-58826-654-5
ISBN: 978-1-58826-678-1
2009/444 pages/LC: 2008043854

"A well-thought-through comparative study of the role Islam has played in South East Asian history and politics from the early centuries of the region's Islamization until today."—Chiara Formichi, South East Asia Research

"Means has performed a major service for students of Muslim politics in Southeast Asia.... Also eminently well suited for adoption in university classrooms."—Robert W. Hefner, The Journal of Asian Studies

"Means has an easy and engaging style that allows the information in his book’s pages to flow gracefully into the reader’s consciousness."—Eric Tagliacozzo, Pacific Affairs

"An essential read for scholars and practitioners interested in understanding the historical and contemporary complexities of political Islam."—Jennifer L. Epley, Comparative Political Studies

"Essential reading for those who wish to have a better understanding of the dynamics that define much of Muslim political activism and engagement in Southeast Asia."—Joseph Chinyong Liow, Contemporary Southeast Asia

"A highly readable contemporary political history of ‘Islamic’ societies in Southeast Asia.... The book is extremely current, offering a detailed but concise narrative of events through 2008.... Highly recommended."—Choice

"This is a gem of a book.... One of the best I have seen on political Islam in Southeast Asia. Means’s knowledge of his subject matter is prodigious."—Howard Federspiel, Ohio State University, Newark

"A crowning achievement for Means, and a must-read for anyone interested in the political and policy implications of Islam in Southeast Asia."—Dwight W. King, Northern Illinois University


Gordon Means traces the evolution of Islamic politics in Southeast Asia, ranging from the early arrival of Islam in the region to the challenges it generates, and faces, today.

Means’s analysis encompasses the events and actions shaping Islamic politics, as well as the impact of Islamic politics on government and public policy outcomes. It also offers insightful answers to such questions as: How was the Islam that first came to Southeast Asia shaped by four centuries of colonial rule? Are democracy and political Islam compatible? Is Islamic radicalism gaining ground in the region, and what are its prospects for establishing a system of Islamic governance? Is there open opposition to radical Islam?

A fundamental issue raised in the book is whether contemporary regimes in the region have the capacity to address key issues of economic and social equity, not only to meet basic needs, but also to compete effectively in a globalized world economy.


The late Gordon Means was most recently professor emeritus of political science at McMaster University. His renowned publications include Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation and The Past in Southeast Asia’s Present, as well as the coedited Temiar-English, English-Temiar Dictionary and Sengoi-English, English-Sengoi Dictionary.


  • Introduction.
  • Islamic Origins and Southeast Asian Adaptations.
  • Islam Under Colonial Rule.
  • Indonesia: Independence Without Consensus.
  • Malaysia: Challenged by Ethnicity.
  • Indonesia Under Suharto.
  • Malaysia Under Mahathir.
  • Southeast Asia and Global Jihad.
  • Moro Separatism in the Philippines.
  • Pattani Malay Separatism in Thailand.
  • Aceh Separatism in Indonesia.
  • Democracy and Islam in Indonesia.
  • Ethnicity and Islam in Malaysia.
  • Southeast Asian Islam in Transition.