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Seminar on Islam and the State in Myanmar

Political and Social Change Seminar

Islam and the State in Myanmar: Understanding the Politics of Belonging

Melissa Crouch

Date & Venue
1–2.30pm, Wednesday 1 April, 2015
Coombs Extension, Room 1.04
HC Coombs Extension Bldg #8, Fellows Rd
The Australian National University

The recent anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar has exposed a serious gap in knowledge of Muslim communities and how they interact with the state in Myanmar. This talk will focus on the politics of belonging in Myanmar with a focus on deepening our understanding of the diverse Muslim communities there. It will demonstrate the need to move away from rigid ethnic-based assumptions of Muslims in Myanmar and reframe our understanding to include how Muslim identity is shaped by their relations with the state. It will identify several themes critical to the politics of belonging: the history of the Muslim community; Muslim political engagement; Muslims in times of crisis; and the practise of Islam. In order to reconceptualise the politics of belonging, and expand our understanding of the relation between Muslims and the state in Myanmar, I suggest that we need to make two movements. First, we need to move away from characterising Islam in Myanmar as violent, hostile and strange. To place Islam on an equal footing with other religions in Myanmar will inevitably require displacing Buddhism from its perceived position as a ‘non-violent’ religion. Second, the study of Islam in Myanmar needs to be acknowledged and welcomed into wider academic discussions on Islam and the state. That is, rather than studying Muslims in Myanmar as an isolated anomaly, in this era of transnational Islam we need to reposition the study of Muslims in Myanmar as an important ‘Islamic crossroad’ between Central, South and Southeast Asia.

About the Speaker
Dr Melissa Crouch is a Lecturer at the Law Faculty, the University of New South Wales, Sydney. 

Details of forthcoming and recent PSC seminars, workshops and conferences can be found

Mosque in Hsipau, 2013

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