1. INTRODUCTION

Is human security universal? Like other religions and cultures throughout the world, Islam has been seen by many to play only a minor role in scholarly efforts to explain many security issues in international relations. However, in reality, there are many cases of conflict involving Islamic countries and Muslims throughout the world. Furthermore, its historically and geographically close connections with two other major religions in the world, Christianity and Judaism, makes the study of Islam especially significant as a subject for study today.

For many years, religion, like culture in general, has tended to be studied as a domestic factor, rather than an external factor in explaining security issues. Although the Iranian Revolution in 1979 sparked a debate about the rise of Islam and Islamic fundamentalism (Piscatori 1986; Esposito 1991) in world politics, IR theorists have generally continued to isolate religion as an important factor in explaining international conflicts. Beginning with the reunification of Germany in 1989, and in addition to the longstanding ethnic and religious conflicts in many Muslim countries, plus the unexpected September 11, 2001 tragedy in the US, all together have once again given reason for IR scholars to reassess how religion- particularly Islam - plays a significant role as an ideational factor in the ongoing quest to explain peace and security issues of the world.

Focusing on Asia, in particular SE Asia and Malaysia, this research is designed to examine how IR scholars can gain a better understanding of human security by incorporating a religions perspective, focusing in particular on Islam- in their IR theory discourse. The research has two major objectives: 1) to assess and to document security and human security discourse in Asia-in terms of both traditional security concepts and the newer concept of human security; 2) to analyze how treating Islam as an ideational factor in security issues may help to form an updated alternative IR theory.