Rethinking the Islamization of the Malay World
by Farish Noor
In his highly influential work the Preliminary Statement on a General Theory of the Islamization of the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago (1963), Syed Naquib al-Attas argued that “the coming of Islam, seen from the perspective of modern times, was the most momentous event in the history of the Malay archipelago”.1 Naquib al-Attas’ qualification of the coming of Islam to the Malay world in such terms is understandable, when bearing in mind that in the work of the man - who later became the intellectual mentor to a whole generation of Islamist scholars, students, and activists in the country - we find traces of a form of reversed Orientalism and that he aimed for a radical break between the Malay pre-Islamic past and the Islamic presence in the here-and-now.

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