The majority of the world's Muslim population is located in South, East, and Southeast Asia. Muslim control of overland and ocean trade routes linking the Mediterranean basin China and the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia brought Islam to East and Southeast Asia. Afghan conquests were largely responsible for the establish of Islamic political authority and the spread of Islam among the populations of South Asia. Relationships between religion, including Islam, and ethnicity in the region are complex and highly variable. In societies and states with Muslim majorities ethnic distinctions among Muslims are socially andŠpolitically significant. In those with Muslim minorities, particularly China, India, Burma, and the Philippines, 'Muslim' is often regarded as an ethnic as well as religious category. Everywhere there is a dynamic tension between universal Muslim values and legal norms encoded in Arabic and other religious texts and those of local cultures. This tension is expressed in many cultural domains ranging from ritual performance to concepts of political authority. Contemporary 'Islamist' or 'fundamentalist' movements are attempts to shift the balance between local culture and Islamic universalism in the latter direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015


  • Afghan
  • Asia
  • Islam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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