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Recent events in Southeast Asia have revived interest in the role of political Islam in the region. This article examines the position of Muslims in Thailand’s four southern border provinces. It addresses the historical background of the area’s relationship with forms of centralized government by Thai political centers, the relevant elements of ethnicity and their significance for cultural (religious) self-identification, and how this may be translated in the political use of Islam. In a wider context, the study can be considered as illustrative of the problematic relationship between centers and peripheries, particularly those on the frontiers of culture zones.