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Expressing Islam

Religious Life and Politics in Indonesia

Greg Fealy and Sally White

Publication Year: 2008

As the forces of globalisation and modernisation buffet Islam and other world religions, Indonesia’s 200 million Muslims are expressing their faith in ever more complex ways. Celebrity television preachers, internet fatwa services, mass religious rallies in soccer stadiums, glossy jihadist magazines, Islamic medical treatments, alms giving via mobile phone and electronic sharia banking services are just some of the manifestations of a more consumer-oriented approach to Islam which interact with and sometimes replace other, more traditional expressions of the faith. This book examines some of the myriad ways in which Islam is being expressed in contemporary Indonesian life and politics. Authored by leading authorities on Indonesian Islam, it gives fascinating insights into such topics as the marketisation of Islam, contemporary pilgrimage, the rise of mass preachers, gender and Islamic politics, online fatwa, current trends among Islamist vigilante and criminal groups, and recent developments in Islamic banking and microfinance.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

Figures and Tables

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p. vii-vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is based on papers presented at the 25th annual Indonesia Update conference held at the Australian National University (ANU) on 7–8 September 2007. Eleven of the chapters in this book were developed from conference papers, and another three—those of George Quinn, James Hoesterey ...


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pp. xiii-xxii

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1. Introduction by Greg Fealy and Sally White

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pp. 1-12

Western perceptions of the character and role of Islam in Indonesia have shifted dramatically in the past decade. Much of the literature during the twentieth century portrayed the Muslim community in largely benign terms. There were several interlinked aspects to this approving commentary. ...

Part I: Expressing Personal Piety

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2. Consuming Islam : Commodified Religion and Aspirational Pietism in Contemporary Indonesia

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pp. 15-39

The role of religion in the contemporary globalised world is changing rapidly. New technology and accelerated information flows combined with urbanisation and growing prosperity have led to new forms of religious expression, in Indonesia as elsewhere. Patterns of Islamic behaviour have ...

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3. Modulations of Active Piety: Professors and Televangelists as Promoters of Indonesian ‘Sufisme’

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pp. 40-62

A distinctive and remarkable feature of Indonesia’s recent Islamic revival has been the upsurge of popular interest in Islam’s mystical and devotional tradition, tasawwuf (Sufism). The resurgence of Sufism, especially among urbanites, during Indonesia’s Islamic revival runs counter to the powerful ...

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4. Throwing Money at the Holy Door: Commercial Aspects of Popular Pilgrimage in Java

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pp. 63-79

Some 100 kilometres west of Jakarta, not far from Old Banten, stands the tomb of Sheik Muhammad Sholeh, an early preacher of Islam in the region. The tomb is at the summit of Gunung Santri, a tree-clad hill overlooking the rapidly developing harbour town of Bojonegara. Gunung Santri is a ...

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5. ‘Spiritual Meal’ or Ongoing Project ? The Dilemma of Dakwah Oratory

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pp. 80-94

One could be forgiven for thinking that there is no limit to the broad usage Indonesians make of the term dakwah, which literally means ‘call’ (to religion), and is commonly extended to mean any kind of preaching, predication or Islamic outreach activity. Many activities without primarily religious ...

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6. Marketing Morality: The Rise, Fall and Rebranding of Aa Gym

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pp. 95-112

On the eve of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Asian–African Conference in 2005, Kiai Haji Abdullah Gymnastiar, the charismatic television preacher known across Indonesia as Aa Gym, admonished Muslim leaders to become more savvy about marketing the ‘beauty of Islam’. Likening Muslim ...

Part II: Political, Social and Legal Expressions of Islam

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7. Religion, Politics and Social Dynamics in Java: Historical and Contemporary Rhymes by M.C. Ricklefs

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pp. 115-136

Mark Twain observed that history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. In the spirit of that observation, this chapter will pursue the possibility of historical rhymes in the history of Islam in Java. I will first examine a crucial period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and ...

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8. Islam and Gender in Contemporary Indonesia: Public Discourses on Duties, Rights and Morality by Sally White and Maria Ulfah Anshor

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pp. 137-158

Since the fall of the Soeharto regime in 1998, the political and ideological landscape has changed dramatically for Indonesian women. During the New Order, public discourse on gender focused on a woman’s role as wife and mother, and on the contribution women were expected to make to the ...

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9. Online Fatwa in Indonesia: From Fatwa Shopping to Googling a Kiai

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pp. 159-173

In Indonesia, although individual Islamic scholars still issue fatwa, these are increasingly the province of the three major Islamic organisations: Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI). Through their fatwa, these three organisations have responded ...

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10. Regional Sharia Regulations in Indonesia: Anomaly or Symptom?

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pp. 174-191

Indonesia is often cited as the best example of a thriving and continually maturing democracy in Southeast Asia. However, the phenomenon of regionally based legislation linked to religious teachings, which in some instances curtails the democratic freedoms of citizens, appears to be an ...

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11. ‘As Long as It’s Halal’: Islamic Preman in Jakarta

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pp. 192-210

This quote from the Jakarta Post encapsulates a grim daily reality faced by the residents of Indonesia’s capital. Fear of extortion, harassment or violence at the hands of preman, a colloquial term for a street thug or gangster, is for many Indonesians a significant and recurrent threat to their personal ...

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12. Indonesian Terrorism: From Jihad to Dakwah?

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pp. 211-225

In this chapter, I will try to predict the future evolution of the jihadi movement in Indonesia. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has been the best known of several jihadi organisations operating in Indonesia and neighbouring countries, and my focus will largely settle on it. The task is a hazardous one, not least ...

Part III: The Islamic Economy

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13. The Development of Islamic Banking in the Post-crisis Indonesian Economy

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pp. 229-250

Before the economic crisis of 1997–98, Bank Muamalat Indonesia was Indonesia’s only Islamic commercial bank. It was founded in 1991 to meet demand from educated middle-class Muslims for Islamic banking services, and as part of then president Soeharto’s political strategy to accommodate ...

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14. Islamic Microfinance Initiatives to Enhance Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

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pp. 251-266

Especially after the Asian monetary crisis, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) acted as a safety valve for the national economy by enhancing economic growth and reducing unemployment. During 2000– 06, the value created by the SME sector increased significantly, while that of large ...

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15. Community Development through Islamic Microfinance: Serving the Financial Needs of the Poor in a Viable Way

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pp. 267-285

Indonesia’s first Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat Indonesia, was established in 1991. Since then, the institutional base of the Islamic economy in Indonesia has expanded rapidly. This sector now covers not only the conventional banking and financial sector, but also zakat management organisations, sharia ...


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pp. 287-295

E-ISBN-13: 9789812308528
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812308511

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indonesia -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Indonesia -- Politics and government -- 1998-.
  • Islam and politics -- Indonesia -- History.
  • Islam -- Indonesia.
  • Islam -- Economic aspects -- Indonesia.
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