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ISEK - Institut für Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft Ethnologie

Contesting the Margins: Tablighi Jama’at and the [re]Islamization of Cham Muslims of Cambodia

Wahyu Kuncoro


This project examines the transnational Islamic movement Tablighi Jama’at and its reach into the periphery of the so-called Muslim world. Tablighi Jama’at is a Sunni Islamic proselytizing and revivalist movement. Originating in India, it has been particularly successful in attracting new followers in Southeast Asia. In this project, I follow groups of missionaries from the main centre of Tablighi Jama’at in Java on proselytizing tours across the region, most notably Cambodia, in order to convince Muslims to abandon localized religious practices and adopt more orthodox, ‘pure’ practices of Islam.

Projektbild Contesting the Margins

By describing the perspectives, journeys and encounters of Tablighi Jama’at missionaries in fine ethnographic detail, this research seeks to fill a gap in the scholarly literature on relations between different groups of Southeast Asian Muslims in what I propose to call the ‘Islamic periphery’ – both because this study builds on the voices of Cambodian Muslims (Cham) who live as a minority in a Buddhist-majority country, and because the focus on Tablighi Jama’at directs our attention to an Islamic movement that does not have its origins in Saudi Arabia, usually believed to be the centre of the religion. Ultimately, the research aims to shed new light on centre–periphery relations in the broader Muslim world and thereby make an important contribution to ongoing debates in the anthropology of Islam.