PhD profile picture of Saleena Saleem

Saleena Saleem

Postgraduate Research Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant

Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology


Saleena holds a M.Sc. in Political Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She also holds a M.Sc. in Journalism and a B.A. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Boston University (BU). Her most recent research stints were at the School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, and at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.


Saleena’s research interests are on political sociology; ethno-religious politics; civil society; and transnational feminist networks in Southeast Asia. The current country focus of her PhD research work is Malaysia.

Working thesis title

Mitigating Polarization in Plural Southeast Asian Societies: Trust Building, Social Learning, and Muslim Women Activism in Malaysia


Dr. Karen Evans (Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology) and Dr. Leon Moosavi (Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology)


Saleem, Saleena. 2021. “Constructing the ‘Liberal’ Muslim Other: Ethnic Politics, Competition, and Polarisation in Malaysia,” Religion, State and Society Volume 49 Issue 2, pp. 109-125.

Arifianto, Alexander and Saleem, Saleena. 2021. “Introduction: Sectarianisation in Southeast Asia and Beyond,” Religion, State and Society Volume 49 Issue 2, pp. 86-92. [Equal Authorship]

Saleem, Saleena. 2021. “Malaysia 2020: Democratic Backsliding Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Asia Maior XXXI/2020: 241-258.

Saleem, Saleena. 2020. “Malaysia 2019: The Politics of Fear and UMNO’s Renewed Relevance,” Asia Maior XXX/2019: 267-286.

Saleem, Saleena. 2020. “Building Trust in the Democratic Process: The Role of Islamists in Tunisia’s Post-Arab Spring Transitional Politics,” in M.N.M Osman (Ed.) Pathways to Contemporary Islam. New Trends in Critical Engagement (Amsterdam University Press).

Saleem, Saleena and Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman. 2019. “Competing Frames of the Gulen Movement: The Case of Malaysia,” Sociology of Islam Volume 7 Issue 1, pp. 61-91.

Saleem, Saleena. 2018. “State Use of Public Order and Social Cohesion Concerns in the Securitisation of Non-mainstream Muslims in Malaysia,” Journal of Religious and Political Practice Volume 4 Issue 3, pp. 314-335.

Florini, Ann and Saleena Saleem. “Information Disclosure in Global Energy Governance,” Global Policy Volume 2, Issue 777, 2011, pp. 144-154 (Journal Article)

Sovacool, Benjamin K., Saleena Saleem, Anthony L. D’Agostino, Catherine R. Ramos, Kirsten Trott, and Yanchun Ong. “What About Social Science and Interdisciplinarity? A 10-year Content Analysis of Energy Policy,” in DL Goldblatt et al. (Eds.) Tackling Long-Term Global Energy Problems: The Contribution of Social Sciences (New York: Springer, 2012) (Edited Book Chapter)

“Islam in the Contemporary World”, Nanyang Technological University (NTU). June 2, 2016. (Conference Report)

Selected Commentaries

“Najib’s Mother of All Budgets: Gearing Up For 14th General Election,” RSIS Commentaries No. 226/2017. November 28, 2017.

“Expanding KL-Saudi Ties: Benefits and Risks for Malaysia,” RSIS Commentaries No. 040/2017. March 9, 2017.

“Turkey Referendum: New Phase in Turkish-European Relations,” Eurasia Review. April 27, 2017.

“The look of a winner: Why public image matters for Malaysia's new opposition party,” Asia and the Pacific Policy Society, Policy Forum. February 28, 2017.

“Morocco and the ‘third way’ process of change,” Middle East Monitor. November 2, 2016.

“Malaysia’s Secular Versus Religious Divide,” New Mandala. October 10, 2016.

“Saudi Arabia’s Shaken Pillars: Impact on Southeast Asian Muslims,” RSIS Commentaries CO16133. June 1, 2016.

“Islamophobia: Fuelling the Cycle of Violence,” RSIS Commentaries CO16073. April 5, 2016.

“Middle East Upheavals Driven More by Politics than Religion,” Today. March 9, 2016.