Please forgive me the belated reply.
Originally Posted by nvidia2008
I would say that during the pre-1900s to 1970s ethnic Malays simply considered Islam part of the Malay culture. There was enough widespread flexibility in their practice of Islam that I think they didn't question the "forcing" of religion upon them. There are many instances of more liberal dress codes, drinking of alcohol, witchcraft and other such "deviations" in the past.
When Islam first reached that part of South East Asia it was more tolerant and enlightened than in later centuries, Islams expansion there was also peaceful and gradual, unlike say, in Egypt or Iran. It could be why it is more flexible.
Post-WW2 things became more complicated because with the exposure to the modern world they caught the whiff of "standardised" Islam. In the past 20 years there have certainly been Malays that do not want to play ball with "standardised" Islam, the most prevalent strategy being paying lip service to their parents and the mosques while just doing whatever the heck they wanted (sex, drugs and rock n' roll [well, electronic music]).
With the development of modern technologies, several influences began having serious impact, notably Islamic hard-lining as in more women wearing religious (often Middle-Eastern inspired) garb and the extension of religious legislation (with which youre familiar), along with social secularisation, as in the adoption of those more permissive mores you mentioned.
I think that in the long term, secularisation will prevail as it did in countries where modernisation occured earlier.
The catch is Christianity has a half-a-millenia head start in the separation from Roman Catholicism. The Church of England was the result of some rather heretical deviations from Christianity as it was known then. Protestants have a higher level of flexibility in worship compared to Islam... Since Islam didn't have a King Henry with a big army. The closest would have been the Ottoman empire(?). But I could be stretching things here.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a Bedouin some years ago, he was saying were having our own little Middle-Ages now adding if Europe got over it, so will we.
From the Renaissance to our times, Western Europe and its overseas grafts went from overwhelmingly religious to mostly secular, I think it was mostly due to extra-religious processes such as discoveries, inventions, and the new ideas these enabled. I also think that the religious wars of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries had as gradual long-term effect a growing disappointment with religion; perhaps the US, never having had a state-religion or religious war, is thus slightly more religious than most other developed countries.
We have all the power of modern society at our disposal. But do we know when or how we are going to die? Do we know how to prevent it? What will the air be like tomorrow? Will I get a job? Will I get cancer? There is still much uncertainty and religion of whatever kind seems to be the solution for a lot of people.
One of the past strengths of religion is that it held promise of solace and redemption in a world where humans were mostly poor, ignorant, superstitious, and had shorter, more painful, and less safe lives.
An old rabbi once told me what modern science brought us is the deliverance from fear, I couldnt help noting that it also brought down religious authority, Im fine with that too he replied.
For a while, dazzled by scientific and technological advances, many thought that knowledge and reason will bring us a fully balanced, self-regulating, affluent, completely safe human existence and well have the definitive, unanimous answers to all these questions weve been dealing with for so long.
The XXth century showed otherwise.
While science and reason are the most proven tools we have to know about our World and to improve our condition in it, they wont answer all our questions nor shield us from uncertainties.
Religions can still prey on the unknown and those fears but less and less effectively so, and it would serve them better to be active in domains outside of scientific knowledge.
In the farther future, well be more reasonable and have more knowledge, and our lives will be more pleasant, more peaceful, and longer.
But well still have to deal with conflicts (including violent ones), misery, and crime, probably less than today. I suppose religions could find a place there.
But Im not all that optimistic for the near future and the younger among us should look at it with apprehension.
My time is up now, so that will have to do.