Recent Issue – Vol 88, No 2 – June 2015

♦♦ Special Issue ♦♦

Religion, Business and Contestation in Malaysia and Singapore

Guest Editors: Edmund Terence Gomez, Robert Hunt and John Roxborogh

Religion, Business and Contestation in Malaysia and Singapore

Edmund Terence Gomez, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Robert Hunt,  Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA
John Roxborogh, University of Otago (emeritus), Dunedin, New Zealand

Keywords: religion, business, Islam, Christianity, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Singapore

The articles in this special issue examine the interactions of religious, economic and political power by exploring the impact on multi-ethnic societies in Malaysia and Singapore of prominent non-mainstream Christian and Muslim issue_image_88_2_Introduction_image03groups whose significant business activities relate to their religious faith. A study of the enterprises developed by these groups provides insights into the importance of religion to their leaders and the groups they represent when initiating and operating these businesses. Because these enterprises are engaged in sustained contact with different publics, the question is raised whether they are implicated in proselytization and if this leads to social conflict resulting in fragmentation and polarization, or whether they can be a force for positive change in society by contributing to the resolution of social and economic problems. Moreover, state authorities concerned about rival centres of power find it difficult to ignore potent combinations of economic and religious influence, but both the development of these combinations and the political response to their existence owe much to the globalization of religious ideas, current economic orthodoxies and the Southeast Asian context.
  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI:

Spirituality as an Integral Part of Islamic Business: The Case of Global Ikhwan

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.

Keywords: Global Ikhwan, Darul Arqam, Ashaari Muhammad, Islam, Malaysia

issue_images_88_2_GISB logo.jpgAbstract
The Global Ikhwan group of companies was founded in 2008 to succeed the Rufaqa’ Corporation, established in 1997 to take over the business interests of Darul Arqam after its members consistently landed in trouble with Malaysia’s Islamic authorities. Banned in 1994, Arqam members survived state repression by reconfiguring themselves as successful businessmen operating under the banner of Global Ikhwan, whose steady expansion outlived the demise of its controversial chairman, Ashaari Muhammad, in May 2010. Spreading its wings transnationally even to Haramayn—the hub of Islamic worship in Saudi Arabia—Global Ikhwan was distinctively helmed by a woman, Khadijah Aam, one of Ashaari’s widows. An analysis of the business experience of Global Ikhwan adds a fresh perspective to understanding Muslim economic norms. Global Ikhwan has carved out a philosophy for its members that is spiritual and traditional, yet at the same time enterprising and innovative. Global Ikhwan attributes its phenomenal success directly to its endeavour to apply Sufi doctrines to the economic realm, despite a common taxonomy of knowledge in Islam which discusses spirituality and business as if they were separate worlds. While Islam does outline moral guidelines for regulating business, whether intra-Muslim or between Muslims and non-Muslims, it has been unusual for the ulama or Muslim religious scholars and Muslim entrepreneurs to ascribe Muslim success in business to Islamic precepts, let alone Sufi principles. Global Ikhwan is an instructive exception.  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI:

Islamic Banking and Finance: Sacred Alignment, Strategic Alliances

Maznah Mohamad, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Johan Saravanamuttu, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

MALAYSIA-FRANCE-ECONOMY-ISLAMKeywords: Islamic Banking, Islamic Finance, the state, neo-liberalism, Malaysia

This case study from Malaysia adds a new dimension to critiques of Islamic banking and finance (IBF) by studying various aspects of its agency and showing how its growth complements and sometimes supersedes its spiritual components, resulting in new power alignments. The first significant consequence of IBF has been its global role in an emergent multipolar financial and regulatory global space. issue_image_88_2_Shariah Malaysia_image02Second, by the creation of new alliances and governing classes, it demonstrates a capacity for eschewing the encumbrances of older religious structures and institutions. IBF resonates well within the restructuring agenda of a post-neoliberal global financial order, while reshaping the meaning of religion through a post-secular worldview. Here is where the role of the new agents and authorial voices of Islamic commerce have become crucial in mediating the ethical and material tensions of IBF, acting as the free market reformers of once inflexible doctrines. Thus, the sustainability of IBF hinges upon the empowerment of this new class of secular agents. These agents of IBF find their legitimacy through the seemingly unlikely path of dereligionizing Islamic practices through commerce.  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI:

Megachurches in Singapore: The Faith of an Emergent Middle Class

Terence Chong, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Keywords: Christianity; megachurch; Singapore; emergent middle class; neoliberalism

issue_image_88_2_Business Megachurches Singapore_image01Abstract
Using original research data, this paper outlines three characteristics that have contributed to the rapid rise of independent Pentecostal megachurches in Singapore. Firstly, megachurches have been very successful in attracting emergent middle-class Singaporeans. Their appeal to upwardly mobile people from working and lower-middle-class backgrounds makes them a converging point for class-transcending individuals who have a strong sense of agency. Second, megachurches are shown to be more likely to combine spirituality with market logic, and their “seeker church” mentality slightly but significantly modifies their attitudes towards homosexuals. These attitudes enable them to better engage with the contemporary marketplace as well as to appeal to young economically mobile Singaporeans generally. Third, it is argued that as part of the broader international evangelical movements, Singapore megachurches have learned to minister to the needy and disadvantaged in ways that avoid conflict with the state. Their integration of trans-nationalizing networks and local indigenizing cells also enables them to combine global connectivity with local relevance amongst distinct groups of Singapore society.  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI:

“Do Business Till He Comes”: The Business of Housing God in Singapore Megachurches

Jeaney Yip, The University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia
Susan Ainsworth, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Keywords: megachurches, Singapore, marketing managerialism, religion, business

issue_image_88_2_Megachurches Singapore_image01Abstract
Religion and business are often seen as inhabiting separate social spheres, yet megachurches combine them in ways that reflect their context. Operating in a country that combines state control and growth-oriented economic pragmatism, New Creation and City Harvest churches in Singapore manage their church-building projects to fulfil both state regulatory and church organizational objectives. Each church in their own way uses the discourse and techniques of marketing managerialism to promote growth, including through significant building projects justified in terms of their religious mission. As a business discourse, marketing managerialism not only leaves its imprint on church language, but has oriented these churches towards self-perpetuating business practices which target some particular types of churchgoers whilst excluding others. We argue that they also illustrate a recursive relationship between religion and business in which each sphere of discourse legitimizes the other.  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI:

Book and Film Reviews published in Volume 88, No. 2 – June 2015


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