Education About Asia: Online Archives

Teaching Islam in Southeast Asia

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Teaching about Islam in Southeast Asia is simultaneously one of the most delightful and most frustrating activities in which to engage. The sheer richness of history, culture, literature, and locally developed expressions and interpretations of Islam allow a teacher to show a side of Islamic faith and culture that seldom reaches a class focused on the Middle East. Architecture, art, fashion, media, education, and folk festivities provide wonderful illustrations for show and tell.

The frustrating part is the paucity of material suitable for the level of high school and college students. In spite of its accessibility, the area used to be among the stepchildren of Islamic studies. After 9/11 several publishers have started to include Southeast Asia in their textbooks about Islam, yet few books or articles are at an introductory level. However, works are being commissioned as we speak. In the meantime, teachers can take refuge in articles, book chapters, newspaper articles, and entries from encyclopedias, many of which have updated their scholarship with more information about Islam in Southeast Asia. Of course, visual material such as pictures of Islamic art and movies are excellent tools for teaching. And yes, the Internet yields many interesting pieces via Web sites of Islamic groups in the region and via the English language departments of local newspapers and journals.