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Santal religiosity and impact of Christianization: A peremptory glimpse of the Orang Asli situation in Malaysia

Karim, A.H.M Zehadul (2017) Santal religiosity and impact of Christianization: A peremptory glimpse of the Orang Asli situation in Malaysia. In: Man And Culture. ISRAA, Baya, Paba, Rajshahi, Bangladesh, pp. 1-13. ISBN 978-984-34-3554-5

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Santals, the largest aboriginal group of people in Bangladesh, living in the north-western part of the country, are absolutely dependent on their traditional belief system with strict adherence to sanatoni (traditional) religious practices. Most recently, a large number of them have been converted to Christianity and are seemingly being formalized to a newly-evolved maladaptive religiosity. Historically speaking, the Santals arrived in Bangladesh during the British colonial period after they were driven out from the Indian Territory as they revolted against the British in 1855. To escape from their torturous persecution, they fled to move to Bangladesh settling mostly in the northern part of the country. Since then, they have been maintaining their own sanatani practices very comfortably without having any socio-political interference from their larger Bengali community. But as time passes by, in the last few decades, they have become the victims of the newly-emerged Bengali land grabbers, who pauperize them to extreme poverty and finally, almost exterminating them from their own settlement. As a consequence, a large group of Santals have now accepted Christianity and most of them have migrated to the peri-urban city centers seeking employment in different Christian-based professional organizations who support them economically. It will be however, unjust to say that the Christian missionaries forced them to such conversion; rather, it is their magnanimity and acceptability which attracted the adibashis to such conversion. It is learned that the missionary people are well-behaved, sociable and most frequently show extra modesty to everyone who eventually become attracted to them. By contrast, the Bengali mainlanders in fact, simply fail to integrate the Santals in their social interactions; rather they always keep a social distance, alienating the adibashis and arguing that they did not like the Santals for they drink alcohol. They do not consider the fact that drinking alcohol is part of their religious and cultural festivals. Due to such attitudinal distance, Bengali mainlanders and the Santal communities have never had any symbiotic relationship between them; instead, a kind of diametrically opposing sentiments have prevailed between these two groups of people which has a negative impact on human relationship. In contrast, the available evidences (e.g. Syed Arabi Idid, 2012) on a few orang asli (adibashi) groups in Malaysia show a different picture where the aboriginal people in Malaysia do maintain a very close community relationship with the Malay Muslims. The orang asli in Malaysia live in secluded reserved areas in a socio-environmental and synecological setting of their own without having any social, economic and political interference. The gentle behaviour of the Malays and also at the same time, their modest ways of handling the situation, allows a sizeable conversion of them into Islam. The ethno-pluralistic tolerance of the Islamic religion in Malaysia also allows the orang asli /adibashi (original settlers) groups of people in this country to have good attachment with the local Malay Muslims, effectually having almost an equal conversion of them to both Islam and Christianity. As Islam in Malaysia had a kind of generous cordiality for the Orang Asli, many of them could thus retain their own cultural heritage without being oppressed by the local people. But in the case of Bangladesh, the Santals are simply disfavored from such cooperation as an ethnic minority; rather they are often victimized economically, politically and socially. Based on my data from both situations, the paper provides critical arguments and finally produces findings for us who want to understand about this community from academic and developmental contexts. In this paper however, I do not either support or negate the conversion, rather it is my intention here to emphasize on the cultural, religious and human rights protection of the indigenous groups of people without having any socio-cultural, economic and political interference on their indigenous way of living.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: HP00002(6372)/62120
Uncontrolled Keywords: Santal religiosity; peremptory glimpse of the Orang Asli; Malaysia
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Kulliyyahs/Centres/Divisions/Institutes (Can select more than one option. Press CONTROL button): Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences > Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Depositing User: Prof. Dr. A.H.M. Zehadul Karim
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2018 09:26
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2018 11:54
URI: http://irep.iium.edu.my/id/eprint/62120

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