Malcolm began his speech with ‘As-salaam aliakum’. ‘Walaikum salaam’ the crowd chanted back. But before he could say anything else, a man in the front row stood up, walked briskly to the rostrum, and shot Malcolm with a sawed-off shotgun.

My name often causes misunderstanding among people who think that Muslims must have Arabic names. Some forget that Islam spread beyond the peninsula where the religion was founded and that most Muslims are not Arabs.

Islamic doctrines have been frequently expressed and negotiated through literature. The works of Middle Eastern writers such as Jalal ul-din Rumi and Naguib Mahfouz that deal with Islamic theology are widely known. A lesser known fact is that intimations of Islam were keenly expressed through the cultural landscape of Muslim Southeast Asia, or the Nusantara.

Indonesia is increasingly identified as an upcoming global powerhouse ready to join the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but too little importance is attached to the fact that it is also the most populous Muslim nation-state in the world—one in every five Muslims lives in maritime Southeast Asia.

I watch the sunset. It does not take much time: one moment the sun is there, and it is day, and the next it has disappeared. The floodlights of Kelab Darul Ehsan come on, synchronised with the sunset. The Asian work ethic predominates here, meaning long hours at the office and a five and half day working week.

The meaning and implication of Malay-ness is central to the life of Southeast Asia, mainland and maritime. The origin, continuation as well as contemporary efforts to confound the paradoxes contained in Malay history and society are also major questions for the Muslim World as a whole.