chapter  1
12 Pages

The politics of religion in South and Southeast Asia


The notion of a ‘politics of religion’ refers to the increasing role that religion plays in the politics of the contemporary world. In some descriptions, often referring to industrialized countries where liberal democracy and its concomitant values of individual freedoms and minority rights are deeply entrenched, it is presented as an innocuous return of religion to the public sphere to cater for individuals craving moral and spiritual sustenance in a world beset with consumerism and crass materialism. Its return in the public sphere is therefore understood as a compensatory response for the alienation that obtains in capitalist societies. The conclusion drawn is that the secular state concept needs to be revisited and the assumption that modernity will do away with tradition is unwarranted. 1 Such public religion is an interesting object of study in its own right, but that is not the dominant character of the politics of religion in South and Southeast Asia. In this book, we deal primarily with politicized religious revivals that cannot reasonably be depicted as mere quest for a moral anchor in a world of fl ux and change.