International conference on Hadramis in Southeast Asia [Archives:2005/873/Culture]

September 1 2005

An international conference was held from August 27-28, 2005, in the Malaysian Capital, Kuala Lumpur. A large congregation of scholars, researchers, historians, and thinkers – from Yemen, Malaysia, Indonesnai, Egypt, Emirates, Saudi Arabia, UK, USA, Netherlands, and Australia, partook in the conference. Titled “The Arab Hadramis in Southeast Asia: Identity Maintenance or Assimilation?”, the conference was organized by the Department of History and Civilization at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (IIUM) under the auspices of the Yemeni Embassy to Malaysia and was inaugurated by Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayed Hamid al-Bar who said he is “proud to be one of the Yemeni-Malaysian Hadramis.”

Many papers were submitted to the conference tackling a variety of topics related to Hadrami identity. The conference aimed at bringing together scholars and researchers from different parts of the world and from several disciplines to exchange views on the Arab-Hadrami immigration into Southeast Asia and highlight its current impact on the country of origin and the host countries.

It is noteworthy that the first Arab presence in Southeast Asia coincided with the advent of Islam in the region and the recognition of the early Arab Yemeni Hadrami immigrants as ideal representatives of Islam and great bearers of Muslim civilization. This universal recognition facilitated the process of their interaction with the indigenous upper class and involvement in various socio-economic and political activities that included trade, da'wa (call into Islam), Islamic education, diplomacy and local politics.

In some cases, Yemeni Hadramis inherited power and founded dynasties that claimed an Arab descent during the pre-colonial period.

In the colonial era, a few of them collaborated with the colonial forces and others joined various forms of resistance to colonial rule, working shoulder to shoulder with their hosts towards the independence of their new home countries in Southeast Asia. During the postcolonial period, they continued to have a socio-political and economic role in their host society, but that role became, to a considerable extent, a function of the political system of the nations they lived in.

Similar conferences had been held in London (1995), Leiden (1997) and Cairo (2003).