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Sites of Inclusion and Exclusion - “New” Muslim Places in Urban Indonesia and Malaysia  

Wai Weng Hew

This project is a study of Muslim identities and aspirations in contemporary urban Malaysia and Indonesia, by examining the constructions of place, claims on space and the architecture of built forms. It aims to provide fresh ways of thinking about Islam and more specifically of thinking about Muslims, and their relations to the challenges of urbanisation, modernity and plurality. This research analyses how and under what conditions, religious movements transform urbanity and vice versa, how urban space triggers religious innovations. Yet, it does not see Islam as the only parameter to understand such dynamics, but also takes other aspects into consideration such as consumer culture, ethnic interaction, political contestation and economic development.
While this study engages with both current scholarships of space and place, it highlights the material dimensions of spatial formation, by looking at sacred places (Chinese-style mosques), eating places (Chinese Halal restaurants) and living places (the development of Muslim gated communities and ‘Islamic cities’). Instead of conventional Muslim places, such as mosques (in this case, non-Chinese style) and religious schools, this research emphasises the development of new practices and the formation of new ideas, as reflected in the making of new places.
The overarching questions that drive this project are: What are the translocal flows, national politics and local dynamics behind the making of various Muslim places? Who are the actors of the production and deployment of these places? What do these places tell us about Muslim piety and urban politics? How do these places engage with the existing religious plurality and cultural diversity in Malaysia and Indonesia? This project of urban Muslim places could provide us deeper insight to the multifaceted and intertwined processes of ‘Islamisation’ and urbanisation in contemporary societies, as well as the inclusionary possibilities and limitations of these processes of place making.