• BALIK-ISLAM IN THE PHILIPPINES: REVERSION, SYMBOLIC NEGOTIATION, AND BECOMING THE OTHER

      Abdullah, Zain; Rey, Terry; White, Sydney Davant; Angeles, Vivienne S. M., 1944- (Temple University. Libraries, 2020)
      Although the majority of Filipinos are Christian, recent developments reflect an upsurge in conversion to Islam, particularly in the northern Philippines. This dissertation examines one of the fastest growing religious phenomena in Southeast Asia, Balik-Islam, which means “reverts to Islam,” or the process of “returning to Islam.” The Balik-Islam movement has become popular since the 1970s, and its religious narratives on Muslim reversion challenge and complicate what we already know generally about conversion to new religions, including the impact of the external “non-religious” factors associated with it. This dissertation shows how a discourse of “reversion” among Balik-Islam members reveals complex realities about the appeal of Islam to Filipinos. While other scholars have used paradigms concerning “othering” and underlying “symbolic” forces to understanding the reasons why conflict and crisis might appear in conversion narratives, this characterization also tends to reify religion and position Christianity and Islam as polar opposites operating within a hostile environment. My approach is to understand how Balik-Islam members negotiate their transition to Islam by virtue of social and cultural settings that are both fluid and multifaceted. By critically assessing their “reversion” narratives, this dissertation reveals how their transition to Islam reflects a “symbolic negotiation,” or an act of reimagining the process of religious conversion itself, substituting it for a discourse of reversion that reflects a diverse set of spiritual and social needs.