Syncretic beliefs prevail for many cultural groups in Malaysia. In recent years, however, Malaysia’s Islamic leaders have criticized the Muslim Malay community’s tolerance for syncretism. This article explores how syncretic beliefs are associated with everyday communicative activity: Malays do not find syncretic talk problematic as long as claims for religious competency—being a good Muslim—are interactively maintained. Full participant observation and ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1967; Wieder, 1974) is used to explain how negotiations of religious faithfulness occur not only around particular gestures, but also how those gestures and other related behaviors are made visible and recognizable to interactants as organizing constituents of syncretic talk.
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