International Conference on: Religion and Politics: The Changing Landscape of SEA and West Asia – Religious Extremism and Global Terrorism
December 20, 2016

Date/Time: Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th January 2017
Venue: Pullman Hotel, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur


Day 1: Saturday, 14th January 2017

  1. Prof Clive Kessler, The University of New South Wales, Sydney:
    ISIS and the Religion of Peace
  2. Prof Seyed Javad Miri, Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies, Iran:
    Revisiting the Question of Roots of Violence in the Islamicate World
  3. Dr. Mahdi Ahouie, University of Tehran:
    Radicalization of State-centered Power Politics in the Middle East and Polarization of the Islamic Ummah: What is the Way Out?
  4. Prof Syed Farid Alatas, National University of Singapore:
    Moderation through Music: Arabic Zafin as an Antedote to Extremism in the Malay World

Day 2: Sunday, 15th January 2017

  1. Kyaw Win, Burma Human Rights Network:
    The Trend of Anti-Muslim Persecution in Burma
  2. Prof. Rashila Ramli, IKMAS, UKM:
    Rethinking Human Security In Asia: Strategies of Desecuritization and Economic Diplomacy
  3. Prof. Chandra Muzaffar, JUST:
    Terrorism and the Politics of Hegemony

Jointly Organized by:
Islamic Renaissance Front, Ferdowsi Institute of Science and Research, and Asia West-East Institute

In Collaboration with:
Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, National University of Malaysia (UKM)

As a geopolitical strategic region, West Asia has always been familiar with crises but it is now confronting socio-cultural and structural transformations, and new challenges and realities. From the long-standing conflict in the occupied Palestine to the recent social movements in the Arab countries to the return of a military regime in Egypt, the outbreak of war in Yemen, the recent coup d’état in Turkey, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the practice and spread of Muslim extremism, and the consequent state fragmentation and occasional collapse, sectarian conflicts, stifled civil societies, economic devastation, soaring unemployment, and the massive exodus of refugees all have largely replaced hope with despair, and sanguinity for peace and prosperity in the region with uncertainty.

A similar turmoil is seen in Southeast Asia (SEA) with a continuous unrest in the Southern Thai and South of Philippines where Muslims insurgencies were products of reprisals against states’ persecution. And the recent mass killing of Rohingyas and the systematic violence being unleashed by the Myanmar military has unfolded a humanitarian crisis.

What brought about these changes and mayhem in the socio-economic and political conditions of the regions are not just fragments of the colonial empires but rather the issue of religion which intensifies this turmoil in the region. Today’s West Asia and SEA are agitated regions where the growing conflict in religion brings about transformations, brutalities and human rights violations. Recognizing that religion and politics have always been intimately and uniquely intertwined, the role of politics in the regions’ crises cannot be unnoticed. This conference will focus on the forces that are driving changes across the regions.

While examining the consequences and residues of imperial and neo-imperial presences, this conference is an attempt to explore the historical and contemporary role of religion and politics in the current crisis. Recognizing that Islam is at the core of these debates and discussions, this conference looks into key issues including Muslim identity, extremism, violence and human right violation. While addressing these challenging issues of the escalating violence and the humanitarian crisis, it explores and analyzes the regions’ domestic and international politics and current concerns including sectarianism and persistent authoritarianism.

This conference will provide a forum in which old debates can be discussed through new perspectives where fresh development and new theoretical and methodological approaches are anticipated to be the result of the conference.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

0930 – 0940 Opening speech by Dr Elma Berisha
0940 – 1000 Welcoming Speech by Associate Prof. Dr Noraini Md. Yusof
1000 – 1045 Session I
ISIS and the Religion of Peace
Prof Clive Kessler, The University of New South Wales, Sydney
Moderator: Ehsan Shahwahid
1045 – 1115 Q&A
1115 – 1200 Session II
Revisiting the Question of Roots of
Violence in the Islamicate World
Prof Seyed Javad Miri, Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies Iran
Moderator: Saifullah Qamar
1200 – 1300 Q&A
1300 – 1415 Lunch
1415 – 1500 Session III
Radicalization of State-centered Power Politics
in the Middle East and Polarization of the Islamic
Ummah: What is the Way Out?
Dr. Mahdi Ahouie, University of Tehran:
Moderator: Dr Maryam Zakyah
1500 – 1600 Q&A
1600 – 1645 Session IV
Moderation through Music: Arabic Zafin as an Antedote to Extremism in the Malay World
Prof Syed Farid Alatas, National University of Singapore
Moderator: Nur Adilla Abdul Rahim
1645 – 1730 Q&A
1730 Tea


Sunday, 15 January 2017

0930 – 0945 Welcoming Speech by Dr Elma Berisha
0945 – 1030 Session V
The Trend of Anti-Muslim Persecution in Burma
Kyaw Win, Burma Human Rights Network
Moderator: Rasyad Razin
1030 – 1100 Q&A
1100 – 1145 Session VI
Rethinking Human Security In Asia:
Strategies of Desecuritization and Economic Diplomacy
Prof. Rashila Ramli, IKMAS, UKM
Moderator: Syamil Dzulfida
1145 – 1215 Q&A
1215 – 1300 Session VII
Terrorism and the Politics of Hegemony
Prof. Chandra Muzaffar, JUST
Moderator: Afiqah Zulkifli
1300 – 1330 Q&A
1330 Lunch


Biographical details of the Invited Speakers
Professor Clive S. Kessler is now Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia, where he held a professorial position from 1980 to 2004. Before that he held academic positions at LSE and Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. He has been studying Malay culture, society, politics and religion since the mid-1960s. He also writes about multiculturalism, religion and democratic theory. He is especially interested in the divergent evolutionary development (doctrinal, political and social) of the three forms of Abrahamic ethical-prophetic monotheism (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), in the long-term patterns of historical interrelations between the three civilizations born within these faith communities, and with the way and extent to which those intercivilizational dynamics have provided the contours of much of world history. His more general work centres on the question of modernity and its varying cultural forms and diverse civilizational expressions. He has held visiting positions at and maintains close connections with several Malaysian universities. His contributions to scholarship have been recognized in his election as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Professor Seyed Javad Miri is a visiting professor in human sciences and philosophy at the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Iran. He is also editor of The Islamic Perspective Journal. He founded the World Association of Allama Jafari Studies in 2014 in the USA. The association is devoted to revive the discourse of contemporary Iranian wisdom philosophers in US and Europe. Miri received his bachelor and master degrees at Goteborg University in Sweden and then moved in 1998 to England where he got his doctoral degree in collaboration with Gregor McLennan at Bristol University in the department of sociology. There he worked on the question of social theory based on an intercivilizational dialogue by comparing the sacred and secular intellectual traditions in the works of Ali Shariati and Allama Iqbal (from the primordial intellectual tradition) and Giddens and Goffman (from the modernist intellectual tradition). He has been teaching and living since 2004 in China, Russia and currently working in Tehran. He has published several books and over 50 articles both in the U.S. and U.K. on various issues related to social theory, philosophy and religion from a transcendental point of departure.

Dr Mahdi Ahouie is the Director of the Iranian Studies Programme at the University of Tehran, University of Tehran. He has received a PhD in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies – University of Geneva, Switzerland. He also holds a Masters degree from the University of Geneva specializing in international history and politics, and a BA from the School of International Relations in Tehran. He has worked as a research fellow at several educational and research institutions in Iran and in Switzerland, including the International Centre for Geopolitical Studies in Geneva, and the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran.

Dr Syed Farid Alatas, is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He also headed the Department of Malay Studies at NUS from 2007 to 2013. He lectured at the University of Malaya in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies prior to joining NUS. His areas of interest are historical sociology, the sociology of social science, the sociology of religion and inter-religious dialogue. Among his recent books are Alternative Discourse in Asian Social Science: Responses to Eurocentrism (Sage, 2006), Ibn Khaldun and few others. He is the Academic Advisory Board for the Asia West East Institute.

Kyaw Win is the Secretary of Burmese Muslim Association and Executive Director of the Burma Human Right Network, London based human rights organisation since 2012 that playing a crucial role advocating for minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. This non-profit organisation dedicated to report human rights violations in Burma including religious freedom and minority rights, and advocate international community regarding human rights violations in Burma.

Professor Dr Rashila Ramli is the Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), Malaysia. Her areas of specialization are Political Development, Human Security, Gender and Politics, and International Politics focusing on Global Governance including Governance of the South China Sea and its implication on ASEAN.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is both a social activist and an academic. He is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an international NGO based in Malaysia, which seeks to critique global injustice and to develop an alternative vision of a just and compassionate civilization guided by universal spiritual and moral values. He has published extensively on civilizational dialogue, international politics, religion, human rights and Malaysian society.

Contact Us
Islamic Renaissance Front
26th Floor Menara Maxis, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone: +603-2615-7919
Fax: +603-2615-2699
Updated version: 2.39-20231022