William B. Noseworthy
[ Abstract ]
This article is about the emergence of Islamic modernism among Cham Muslim communities in Cambodia and Cochinchina during the early 20th century. Based on a combined critical reading of existing scholarship, historicized first-hand anthropological accounts, as well as archival sources from the National Archives of Cambodia and the Vietnam National Archives II, it argues accounts of modernists in these sources were either (1) cast through a French colonial reading of a Buddhist state lens and (2) cast through a Malay lens, based upon the Kaum Muda/Kaum Tua divide. First, it proceeds with a historical explanation of the emergence of Islam and the discourse used to describe Muslim communities in Vietnamese, French, and Cham language sources. Then, it turns the narrative toward an examination of the emergence of the “Kaum Muda” or “New Group” of reformist-minded modernist Muslims in early 20th century Cambodia. Delineating the networks of these intellectuals as they stretched across the border through Cochinchina, also highlights a pre-existing transnational element to the community, one that well predates current discussions of twenty-first-century transnationalism. Through a combination of the study of multiple language sources and historical methods, the article highlights the importance of polylingualism in the study of the history of Muslims in Southeast Asia.