The Muslims of Thailand By Michel Gilquin (tr. Michael Smithies) (Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, 2005. 184 pages.)

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Ronald Lukens-Bull

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Abstract

Thailand is about the last place one would associate with Muslims. One
imagines Buddhist wats, saffron-robed monks, and fun-loving people. One
does not imagine women in headscarves, minarets, and the call to prayer.
Indeed, 90 percent of Thais are Buddhists. However, the majority of the
remainder is Muslim (about 8 percent of the total population). In this slim
volume, Gilquin provides a solid introduction to the Muslim communities of
Thailand. It is a sweeping overview, and in that task it does its job very well.
Personally, I would have preferred a more detailed analysis of the everyday
lives of Thai Muslims.
Gilquin calls Thailand’s Muslims a heterogeneous minority. Although
one might imagine that Islam is limited to the provinces closest to Malaysia,
the author demonstrates that this is far from true. However, 85 percent of the
Muslim population lives in the south, and so their issues and concerns figure
prominently in this account. Since the country’s Muslims have different
national origins, legal/ritual schools, and levels of commitment or interest in
Sufism, the only characteristic that seems to define them is their more
reserved approach to socializing. He notes that in a country noted for its fun
(sanuk) and merry-making outings, Muslims are conspicuously absent in ...

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