THE TRAJECTORY OF MIDDLE CLASS MUSLIM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: Religious Expression in the Public Sphere of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand

ROZAKI, Abdur and Suhadi, . and Kusuma, Bayu Mitra Adhyatma and Faiz, Abd Aziz and Rohmawati, Wiwin S. Aminah and Usman, M. Ali (2017) THE TRAJECTORY OF MIDDLE CLASS MUSLIM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: Religious Expression in the Public Sphere of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Buku, - (Cet-1). Institute of Southeast Asian Islam (ISAIs) Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta. ISBN 978-602-6733-28-0

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The portrayal of Muslim middle class in three Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, provides a topical issue to address in the last decade. The three countries come up with their own distinct political context which gives way to diverse dynamics for the growth of the middle class. It is always interesting to take a closer look at the dynamics of the rising Muslim middle class in the three countries amidst the crisis-crossing politics of the regime and the development of market economy. What does the religious expression in the public sphere look like? This is the primary focus of our research entitled “Trajectory of Middle Class Muslim in Southeast Asia: Religious Expression in the Public Sphere of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand”. The first-hand field research and literary analysis have given way to countless noteworthy findings in the research, be it about the dynamics of the Muslim middle class in Indonesia, Malaysia, or Thailand. Following the national reform movement in 1998, there were innumerable Indonesian Muslims who decided to plunge into politics which marked a new era of democratization giving rise to a widely more opened window for political and economic opportunities than that of the previous era. Reform politics unlocked the political arena for the new middle class of Muslims, both at the regional and national levels which is significantly marked by two patterns. The first, common pattern is to have the businessman entering the political field, engaging in electoral democracy and establishing political affiliation with religious organizations, before being elected as public officials. The social capital attached to them as a businessman is combined with the political capital leading to the business rapid growth. The second pattern is there are some businessmen who build up their business from the bottom, whether they are of purely business background or a religious preacher who then build a business line as a new entrepreneur. Commonly the second group is not dependent on the state as they manage themselves to come to the fore by exploiting the growing urban middle class who have modern lifestyle demands and adaptive with the development of information technology like smartphones. With regard to these two patterns, the religious expression of middle class Muslim is also characterized by the dynamics of electoral politics that always drag the Muslim identity politics in the political process, as in the case of the Jakarta elections. In addition, it is also characterized by a glamorous modern lifestyle, sharia lifestyle and the like. Unlike that of Indonesia, in Malaysia the middle class Muslims thrive and prosper in line with state policy. Starting from the socioeconomic gap between the Malay and the Malay Chinese leading to the outbreak of ethnic riots on May 13, 1969, the Malaysian government made political reforms by issuing an affirmative policy in favor of the Malays. Such affirmative policies are New Economic Policy (NEP) and Second Malaysia Plan (1971-1975) which was realized by establishing The Bumiputera Investment Foundation (BIF), primarily aims to strengthen national capital among the Malays. The industrial policy also strengthens Bumiputera’s access in the state industry by establishing the Industrial co-ordination act (ICA) and the establishment of the Bumiputera commercial and Industry community (BCIC). Meanwhile, to prepare the Malay human resources in state industrial policy, the government formed MARA Institute Technology which later developed into University Technology MARA (UITM). Another affirmative policy is providing the Malay with the privilege to access jobs, housing and land in the country’s new industrial land area. The enormous impact of the affirmative policy led to the thriving educated professionals among the Malays. They generally occupy the positions in the state bureaucracy and other state business institutions. The process of strengthening the political policy of the state in accommodating the political aspirations of the Malays created an equal stake between the state and the Malay’s political vision.. A clear example is evident from the fact that there were, new policies made such as the first industrial master plan 1 and 2 to the policy of the National Development Plan (NDP) and Malaysia Multimedia Super Corridor and Vision 2020 (MSC). However, the current challenge to face is how to thrive the economy of the country amidst the dynamics of the global economy which has a direct impact and puts much pressureon the Malay’s economy. The various subsidized reductions and other economic accessibility limitation has led to economic pressures for the Malay middle-class Muslims who previously depended themselves on the state support. The state policies that are increasingly adapt to market mechanisms, especially by way of subsidy reduction has made the middle class Malay Muslims now suffer and struggle. In regard to religious expression in the public sphere, the state’s policy of shaping a shar’i modern lifestyle is also highly influenced by state political policy, such as the establishment of JAKIM although the desire to consume Islamic ideas is has been growing in the community, both in the fashion world and other modern lifestyle accessories. Similarly, the middle class Muslim play a significant role in developing Islamic philanthropy to help other disadvantaged Muslim brothers, as did Syed Mokhtar al Buchori through the Al-Bukhary Foundation that helps so many Mosques and Schools. On the other hand, when it comes to Muslims in Thailand, it is apparent that they have been encountering vulnerable situation that restrict them from growing independently despite the supporting market growth and other digital economic developments. Why did it happen? It is primarily because Muslims in this country are in minority position under unstable political configuration. The military still dominated civilian politics. Such conditions impede Muslim political positions such as in the Patani, Yala and Narathiwa Provinces which are suffering from critical situation. The government prefers to use security approach than the welfare approach. Under military political pressure, it is difficult for the economy to grow and flourish in these three predominantly Muslim provinces. The emergence of the Muslim middle class is also constrained by tight political control, which automatically limits the economic opportunities that bring prosperity. However, in the case of Muslims in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Bangkok’s soft power politics policy can provide wider access for Muslims in access to education, banking, employment and other economic opportunities. This condition is very promising for the growth of middle class Muslims in this province. Halal food products are increasingly widespread in modern markets. Multicultural atmosphere makes the city more alive. This condition can certainly draw the dynamics of the economy and pave way for the prosperity which ultimately leads to the growth of the Muslim middle class.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ekonomi Politik, Muslim Kelas Menengah, Studi Asia Tenggara
Subjects: Ekonomi Politik
Divisions: Buku
Depositing User: Sugeng Hariyanto, SIP (
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 11:09
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2019 11:09

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