POYAI, Thailand — Maikaew Panomyai did a little dance coming out of the examination room, switching her hips, waving her fists in the air and crowing, in her limited English: “Everything’s O.K.! Everything’s O.K.!”

Translation: The nurse just told me I do not have cervical cancer, and even the little white spot I had treated three years ago is still gone.

The report “Rules and Challenges for Malay Muslim Women in the Restive Southern Border Provinces of Thailand” was first presented at the Conference on Religious Activism & Women’s Development in Southeast Asia: Highlighting Impediments, Exploring Opportunities, organized by Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), Singapore National University, on 20 November 2009. This report focuses on the roles of Malay Muslim women in the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand who have to face life amidst problems, obstacles and difficulties in bringing up their families in a time when violence forces them to stand forward as leaders.

Southeast Asia Muslim human rights advocates express concerns on the growth of politicized Islam in the ASEAN region and makes recommendations to ASEAN leaders at the 15th ASEAN Summit. A regional meeting of Southeast Asian human rights advocates was held in Jakarta on 16-17 October 2009 to examine how certain interpretations of Sharia laws are affecting the rights of the women in Muslim contexts in the region and undermining secularism and democratic institutions in such countries as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

The following, and attached, are recommendations from the Regional Meeting held in Jakarta, 16-17 October 2009. Islam in Southeast Asia has long been recognized as humane, tolerant, diverse, plural, metropolitan, progressive, and empowering of women. It is thus a matter of urgent concern that the rapid growth of Islamic extremism is now changing the landscape in Southeast Asia, with serious consequences for all living in the region, as well as for the rest of the world. Leaders of ASEAN member states are urged to be cognizant of this regressive trend, which will have serious impacts not only on women’s rights, human rights, but also on the stability and development of the region as a whole. The conservative and monolithic values that underlie this trend are intolerant of the diversity that characterizes Southeast Asia. Such extremist attitudes result in acts that marginalize women and also use terrorist tactics to eliminate diversity.

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