Islam and the Malay Shadow Play: Aspects of the Historical Mythology of the Wayang Siam
By Barbara S Wright, Yale University, New Haven
Folk Islam as practiced by the majority of village Malays is a syncretic religion, bearing traces of the Hindu and Animistic influences present in the Malay Peninsula before the arrival of Islam in the fifteenth century. While Modernist Islam, particularly as practiced in Malaysia's urban areas in the current revivalist climate, disapproves of most of the traditional Malay arts, Malay Folk Islam is more tolerant. Islam and the Wayang Siam shadow play are linked in popular belief in Kelantan; the nature of this link, as well as Kelantanese ambivalence towards the arts and religion, is the focus of this article.