Preserving Ethnic Identity through Religion

By: Munirah Yamirudeng  

The issue of religion and ethnic identity is extremely complex, some theorists observes that in the mainstream perspective, religion is not seen as an essential component of identity. However, this notion has been challenged and different studies have shown the importance of religion for many ethnic minorities and argue for a strong link between religion, identity, and group membership. From the Southeast Asian perspective, particular religions are linked with particular cultures because they are lexically the most appropriate to express culturally embedded concepts. Malay Muslims make up the largest religious/ethnic minority in Theravada Buddhist Thailand, their ethnic identity as Malay-Muslim in southern Thailand is rapidly dissolved in the melting pot of Thai society. The preservation of Malay-Muslim identity has been a challenge rather than something we can take for granted. The fact remains that there is a need to the continuity of their community, and the preservation of their ethnicity indeed binds the Malay Muslims into viable and cohesive ethnic entity. Therefore, this paper is an attempt to discuss how religion was used as an important component to preserve and sustain their religious and ethnic identity among the Malay Muslims of southern Thailand.

Malay Muslims, Malay Identity, Ethnic Identity, Muslim Minority in Thailand
Religious Commonalities and Differences
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Munirah Yamirudeng

Dr. / Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Department of Malay Studies, Prince of Songkla University - Pattani Campus, Thailand