The memories of seventeenth-century ambivalences and the resulting tensions in the religious landscape of island Southeast Asia have cast a long shadow which we can see played out in socio-political interactions and the ambiguous nature of Christian-Muslim interaction down to contemporary times. As Islam spread through the Malay-Indonesian archipelago and economic rivalries between the Portuguese and Dutch heightened tensions between Catholics and Protestants, accommodation and interfaith interaction were always possible, but it is equally evident that religious boundaries were hardening as the economic and political weight of the European presence increased. Yet tolerance and receptiveness to the outside world remained, as always, hallmarks of Southeast Asian cultures.
Barbara Watson Andaya is professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i. Her recent publications include The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia (2006) and, with Leonard Y. Andaya, A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (2015). She is working on a book on gender and sexuality in Southeast Asia.
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