Islam in a Secular State

Islam in a Secular State

Muslim Activism in Singapore

The overtly secular state of Singapore has unapologetically maintained an authoritarian approach to governance in the realm of religion. Islam is particularly managed by the state. Muslim activists thus have to meticulously navigate these realities - in addition to being a minority community - in order to maximize their influence in the political system. Significantly, Muslim activists are not a monolith: there exists a multitude of political and theological differences amongst them. This study analyses the following categories of Muslim activists: Islamic religious scholars (ulama), liberal Muslims, and the more conservative-minded individuals. Due to constricting political realities, many activists attempt to align themselves with the state, and call upon the state to be an arbiter in their disagreements with other factions. Though there are activists who challenge the state, these are by far in the minority, and are typically unable to assert their influence in a sustained manner.
  • Cover
  • Table of Contents
  • 1. Introduction: The State, Islam, and Muslim Activism in Singapore
    • 1.1 Background of Project and Wider Relevance
    • 1.2 Singapore’s Political Context
    • 1.3 Islam in Singapore
    • 1.4 Arguments in Brief
    • 1.5 Case Selection and Methodology
    • 1.6 Outline of Book
  • 2. Muslim Activism: A Survey across the World
    • 2.1 Muslim Activism: Theological Positions
    • 2.2 Brief Literature Review
    • 2.3 Moving Forward: Understanding Activism in Singapore
  • 3. Argument: Political Opportunities and Muslim Strategies
    • 3.1 Ulama, Liberals and Conservatives
    • 3.2 Agent versus Structure
    • 3.3 Political Opportunities and Agency
    • 3.4 Main Arguments
  • 4. The Ulama: Pragmatism and Political Acquiescence
    • 4.1 The Ulama: Roles and Responsibilities
    • 4.2 Different Groups of Ulama in Singapore
    • 4.3 Political Acquiescence of the Ulama: Between Cooperation and Ambivalence
    • 4.4 Case Studies
      • 4.4.1 Pre RRG: The Hijab Issue and the Madrasah Controversy
      • 4.4.2 Post RRG: Moving towards Greater Cooperation with the State
      • 4.4.3 The Ruptures
    • 4.5 Conclusion
  • 5. Liberal Activists: Playing by the System and Making Gains
    • 5.1 ‘Liberal’ Muslims: Complexities of the Category
    • 5.2 Liberal-Conservative Divide amongst Muslims
    • 5.3 Choosing the Battles to Fight: Playing by the Rules of the Game
    • 5.4 Gains Made in the Public Domain
    • 5.5 Conclusion
  • 6. The Conservative Dilemma: To Challenge or Accept State Proclamations?
    • 6.1 Conservative Muslims: Understanding the Category
    • 6.2 (Potential) Areas of Clashes with the State
    • 6.3 Strategic Advance and Retreat of Conservatives: Pragmatism in Practice
    • 6.4 Ceding the Public Space to Liberals
    • 6.5 Conclusion
  • 7. Conclusion
    • 7.1 Revisiting the Argument
    • 7.2 Relevance of Study beyond Singapore
    • 7.3 Implications for Civil Society
    • 7.4 Future Areas for Research
  • Combined Bibliography
  • Index



    By subscribing, you accept our Privacy Policy