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Southeast Asian Affairs 2004 ISLAMIC RADICALISM IN INDONESIA The Faltering Revival?1 Greg Fealy Of all the images generated by Indonesia since the downfall of Soeharto in 1998, those of radical Islam have been perhaps the most vivid and enduring. These have taken various forms: white-robed and turbaned Muslim militiamen marching through city streets brandishing scimitars and exhortingjihad against Islam's foes; Arab-Indonesian Islamic "clerics" threatening to "sweep" foreigners from Indonesia; and noisy rallies to the gates of Parliament demanding the immediate implementation of shaù'a law. Most dramatic of all are the images of charred and mangled nightclubs and hotels bombed by terrorists and the sight of the perpetrators smiling carelessly or shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Most Great) as they are sentenced to death. Such images have helped to redefine perceptions of Indonesian Islam. In the past, journalists and scholars were wont to describe Indonesian Muslims as among the most peaceable and tolerant of the Islamic world. In so far as Indonesia had radicals, they were kept in close check by the authoritarian regimes of Soekarno (1959-66) and Soeharto (1966-98). Seldom were there stories, much less images, to suggest that Islamic extremists were engaged in violent or intimidating activity. Since 1998 the reverse has been the case. The lifting of restrictions on the freedom of the media and right to organize led to a proliferation of radical groups and a dramatic expansion of Islamist media, including newspapers, magazines, books and websites.2 In the post-Soeharto era reformasi, emboldened radical movements could publish long-banned texts, form militia units, and take to the streets espousing causes that would, a few years previously, have landed their leaders injail. Though many non-Muslims and foreign observers may have looked on with disquiet, the emergence of such groups was proof that meaningful political and social reforms were taking place and that repressed groups were at last able to organize freely. Furthermore, those interested in the complex jigsaw puzzle that is Indonesian Islam could behold the missing "radical pieces"; a fuller picture of Islamic diversity was now in view. The revival of Islamic radicalism has been under way for almost six years and some broader analysis of the phenomenon is now possible. Scholarly Greg Fealy is Research Fellow and Lecturer in Indonesian politics at the Australian National University, Canberra. Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia: TheFalteringRevival? 105 publications by those specializing on Indonesia or Islam are relatively few, though a good deal of research is in process. In this discussion, I will address a number of issues regarding radical groups. To begin with, what are their general ideological traits and what are the differences between them on operational and doctrinal matters? What are the relations between them and to what extent do they share common sources of inspiration? What are the characteristics of their leadership and membership? And finally, what patterns of activity are evident within radical Islam? With regard to the latter, I will examine closely the view often found in the press and works by terrorism scholars that radicalism is becoming more powerful in Indonesia and will argue that radical groups have suffered a succession of reversals since 2002. The term "radical" needs careful definition. As with many of the labels for militant Islam, "radical" is often used to connote disapproval or censure. Such normative judgements do not, however, assist in understanding these groups. For the purposes of this discussion, "radical Islamic groups" are defined as having several inter-connected characteristics. First, they believe that Islam must be implemented in its full and literal form as set out in the Qur'an and Sunnah (tradition based on the Prophet Muhammad's example), free of compromise . They usually give particular emphasis to those sections of the Qur'an dealing explicitly with social relations, devotions, and criminal punishments and assert that these must be carried out to the letter. Second, they are reactive, whether through language, ideas, or physical violence, to what are seen as corrosively secular, materialist, or deviationist forces. They tend to be hostile towards the status quo and see the fundamental teachings ofIslam as providing the basis for rebuilding society and the state.3 Despite this definition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-9135
Print ISSN
0377-5437
Pages
pp. 104-121
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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