Should we worry about Islamism in Indonesia?
May 15, 2017 5:40 PM   Subscribe

"There is no dominant Islamist group in Indonesia that represents a coherent Islamic community" Interesting article discussing the recent arrest of Jakarta governor Ahok on blasphemy charges, and the broader context of Islam and politics in recent years. Good comment on the article (most are sadly rubbish).
posted by smoke (9 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
No dominant Islamist group, huh? Somebody needs to tell that to these guys.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:18 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Indonesia: gay men facing 100 lashes for having sex

This is in Aceh, the only Indonesian province with sharia law. Two men have already been sentenced to 80 lashes, instead of 100, because the judge was showing leniency. So that's something to worry about.

The other thing to worry about is King Salman of Saudi Arabia's visit to Indonesia and the spread of Salafism:

Saudi Arabia Is Redefining Islam for the World's Largest Muslim Nation

As the rise of hardliners, the Arabic language, and Salafi jihadist cells in Indonesia show, Salafism has some undeniable, durable appeal here. In Indonesia, at least, Saudi Arabia is already seeing the fruits of its labor. This new religious ecosystem may be self-sustaining.
posted by adept256 at 6:30 PM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

PeterMcDermott, I would be hesitant to extrapolate "Aceh" to Indonesia. As a self-regulating province of many years, Aceh is not really representative of the broader country and what happens there would not garner broad support amongst the general populace. The situation in Aceh has not changed in many many years, so - while awful - it's not a cause for growing concern, really.

adept256, I agree that the writer skips around the Saudi influence across SE Asia, including Indonesia and its funding of hardline madrassas.

However, did either of you read the article and linked comment? It paints a much more nuanced picture highlighting that the problem is not necessarily extremism but rather the way it's being co-opted by the elite, and also that such collusion is not without precedent. I also kinda feel like your comments illustrate the problem of conceptualising Indonesia's Muslims and Muslim communities as one cohesive mass, when in actuality there is a large diversity in these communities - a diversity that many people are not eager to promote for various reasons.
posted by smoke at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

The fact that Ahok was put on trial for basically not being corrupt and playing ball with the establishment is in no way controversial. Certainly, the corrupt elements in Indonesian politics chose this as a simple way to whip up a frenzy amongst a vocal minority but that vocal minority are also a large minority and Islamism in Aceh is not a passing fad. Even if there is no single entity which one can point to as the official Islamist group, that in no way changes the fact that there is a substantial Islamist element. Plus, the fact that there is no single leadership also makes it much harder to fight because it becomes a war of ideas rather than persons or institutions.
posted by koavf at 6:44 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd read the article and skipped the comment. That was a mistake because I thought the comment was much more illuminating than the actual article.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:45 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually, on re-reading the original article, I don't think that was fair. Both were pretty good.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:50 PM on May 15, 2017

Regarding the ability to mobilize right-wing authoritarians through religious rhetoric, it sounds like Indonesia has an Islam problem to a pretty similar extent that the US has a Christianity problem.
posted by klangklangston at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Indonesia still has a lot of "old gods" and pre Islamic shamanism etc. I think that may help keep the militant new religion from creeping is so much.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:19 PM on May 15, 2017

There's a real problem in extrapolating any kind of unified culture across Indonesia - it's an incredibly diverse archipelago that stretches right across Melanesia and SE Asia, with a significant history of multi-ethnic trade and colonisation, even before the Dutch and Portuguese. There are Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, moderate, conservative and radical Islam, animist, and even atheist groups with competing agendas and political influence. Java is radically different to Aceh, Bali or West Papua, despite being the population and political centre of the country. Jojga and Jakarta are relatively prosperous international cities.

A few years ago I was in Jakarta for a two-week immersion, staying with local artists and seeing their city through their eyes. Even within Jakarta alone, there's no way you can simply say 'Javanese think like this, Jakartans think like this' - there's over 20 million people living in Greater Jakarta, more than the population of my whole country (which still manages to split itself down the middle at election time even with broadly shared beliefs!)

The problem is not Indonesian Islam, but the same problem we've been seeing for more than 20 years - the ideological adventurism of the Saudi princes and their clients, which has much more to do with propping up failed ideologies and declining oil revenues. At some point there must be a comeuppance for the Wahhabis and Salafists, and it's not through bombs and guns but through diplomacy and trade.
posted by prismatic7 at 7:57 PM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

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