Religion cannot be separated from the dynamics of relations between state and society. From there the various interesting aspects will emerge such as multidimensional politics, public policy, and social change in its relation to the contemporary forms of religion, religious communities, practical thinking, and ethos. In the context of Southeast Asia, it is undeniable that in this region Islam is related to the demography of society which is very multicultural and a different government style. For example, Islam in Malaysia will be different with Islam in Thailand, Indonesia, or Singapore. Therefore, based on these facts, it is important for us to examine how the state’s management of diversity, multicultural policies, social activism, and patterns of state-society relations.
Based on the phenomenon, on Thursday, March 1, 2018, Institute of Southeast Asian Islam (ISAIs) UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta held a public discussion with the theme: Islam, Public Policy, and Social Transformation in Southeast Asia. The guest speaker on this public discussion agenda is Dicky Sofjan, Ph.D. Core doctoral faculty at Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) which is located at the Graduate School of Gadjah Mada University. The discussion was hosted by Bayu Mitra A. Kusuma, researcher of politics and public policy at ISAIs UIN Sunan Kalijaga and attended by around 70 participants from various degree and lecturers at UIN Sunan Kalijaga and other universities in Yogyakarta.
In his presentation, Sofjan argues that Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse regions in the world. With a population influenced by the various cultures such as China, Arabia, Persia, Melanesia, and even Europe. The fusion of these cultures then shaped the contemporary society of Southeast Asia, the political economy, which gave birth to a unique diversity and multicultural society representation where Islam is growing so rapidly. Even predicted in 2070 Islam will become the religion with the most adherents. Then the problem is what kind of Islam will emerge and become mainstream. Therefore, appropriate government policies are needed to manage diversity.
On the one hand, many people have a framework to think that there is no relationship between religion and public policy. This is because religion is regarded as something sacred, while public policy is considered very secular. Religion is based on dogma, whereas public policy is optional and promotes rationality. But on the other hand, there are also parties who are eager to dominate religious expression through public policy. An example is what happens in Malaysia where the word Allah can only be used by Muslim. While other religious adherents are forbidden to use the word of Allah even though it is a divine religion. Some people also think that some countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore for example, have been dominated by China. Although currently the president of Singapore is a Malay Muslimah, named Fatimah Yaqob.
Seeing these conditions, in the future Islam must be transformed by paying more attention to two main values, namely aspects of maslahah and social justice. At the end of his presentation, Sofjan concludes that Southeast Asia is a very complex area where Islam deals with various issues such as socio politics and human rights, so that requiring four things in the face of potentially emerging challenges. First, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary studies to elaborate on existing issues. Second, collaborative intelligence in collaborative research. Third, experience-based policy advocacy. Fourth, Indonesia should be a center of excellence in Islamic studies.