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Southeast Asia

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This area has seen a mixture of progress, growth and challenge. Over 350 million people live in this region, with the most populated island being Java. The people share social and cultural ties with the peoples of Mainland Southeast Asia and with other Austronesian peoples in the Pacific. A distinctive feature of Southeast Asia is its cultural diversity. Of the six thousand languages in the world today, about one thousand are spoken in Southeast Asia.

The main religions in this region are Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and traditional Animism. After World War II, the major question for politically active Muslims has concerned the relationship between Islam and the state. In countries where Muslims are in a minority (like the Philippines) this relationship is still causing tension. In Malaysia, Muslims are only around 55 percent of the population and there must be significant adjustments with the largest non-Muslim group, the Chinese. In Indonesia, Muslims are engaged in a continuing debate about different ways of observing the faith, and whether Islam should assume a greater role in government.

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