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Malaysian Youth: From Chic Salafi to Halal Dating



Dr Eva Nisa


Virtual event


Thursday, 2 December, 2021 - 16:00 to 17:10

Malaysia has long been portrayed as a moderate Muslim country. Since the 1970s/1980s, however, the country has increasingly witnessed certain signs of conservatism—a turn which is not unique to Malaysia.The conservative turn has especially appealed to young Muslims wanting to return to their religion.

Drawing on ethnographic studies in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, this seminar focuses on analysing the appeal of chic neo-Salafism to urban cosmopolitan young Malaysians. Dr Nisa will discuss what this neo-Salafi magnet tells us about how Islam is perceived by urban cosmopolitan Malaysia and about the presence of neo-Salafism within the urban Malaysian context.

Various chic neo-Salafi halal (permissible according to Islamic principles) lifestyle “products” which aim to help young people to be better Muslims, have received significant positive responses from young urban Malaysian Muslims.These products range from Salafi conferences to halal matchmaking services. The intersections between Muslim youth and chic neo-Salafism demonstrate how urban cosmopolitan Malaysia, with its Islamisation spirit, has become fertile ground for the growth of chic conservative neo-Salafism, which is finding its way into the lives of urban youth.

Glocalisation initiatives of Salafism are present in the way neo-Salafists are circumventing difficulties faced by urban Muslim youth, such as difficulties in obtaining marriage partners. The neo-Salafi halal matchmaking initiative has been enthusiastically welcomed by young cosmopolitan Malaysian Muslims. This intertwining of religion, business, and cosmopolitanism has become an increasingly common sight in Malaysia’s urban spaces and has coincided with the expansion of global neo-Salafism. 



Dr Eva Nisa is a cultural anthropologist and expert in Islamic studies. She is currently a senior lecturer of anthropology in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

Her research and publications focus on the intersections between religious, cultural, political, economic, legal, social, and philosophical aspects of peoples’ lives. She is interested in global currents of Islam reshaping the lives of Muslims in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. Her research has involved international collaborative projects with scholars from the USA, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Austria, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore. Currently, she serves on the editorial board of The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology. 

This seminar will be recorded.


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