This article explores how Arabness has been rediscovered in the Malay world—in this instance Indonesia and Malaysia and, to some extent, Singapore—from the early 1990s to the present. Arabs, mostly of Hadhrami descent, are an intimate part of local culture, given the shared faith of Islam, and yet remain a measure apart because of historical and cultural differences. They constitute significant communities in the region whose histories have been elusive if not altogether suppressed. It is against these elusive narratives that I consider the recent accentuation of Arabness—through writing in print and on the Internet, conferences, and public occasions—to be a rediscovery. The article focuses on two areas, namely, the accentuation of Arabness and the concurrent identification of Arabs as a link in what some see as a global chain of political extremism. I delve into these areas by asking the following questions: What is significant about the present assertions of Arab identity in comparison to developments more than a century earlier? How have these assertions developed in Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively? And what, if anything, is shared between the two cases that may hark back to the fluid identities of the precolonial Malay world?
Research Article| August 01 2011
Sumit K. Mandal; The Significance of the Rediscovery of Arabs in the Malay World. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2011; 31 (2): 296–311. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-1264244
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