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121 the national bureau of asian research nbr project report | april 2009 Transnational Islam in Indonesia Noorhaidi Hasan Noorhaidi Hasan is Associate Professor at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Dr. Hasan’s research interests include various manifestations of political Islam in contemporary Indonesia and other Muslim-populated countries in Southeast Asia. He is the author of Laskar Jihad: Islam, Militancy and the Quest for Identity in Post-New Order Indonesia (2006), which is based on his doctoral dissertation. Executive Summary Indonesia is generally associated with a peaceful and tolerant form of Islam. The recent rise of militant Islamist groups in post-Suharto Indonesia, however, and the alleged links of some of these groups to the Southeast Asian terrorist network, the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), raises concerns. This paper assesses the current status of transnational Islamist discourse in Indonesia, in general, and Indonesian Islamist militant groups, in particular, examining their impact on Indonesia’s socio-political and conflict dynamics. Indonesian Islam is seen as increasingly infused with transnational Islamist currents and activism arising from a global Islamic awakening. The paper argues that Islamist militants do not currently pose a significant threat to Indonesia’s security as many have shifted their strategy of violent jihad toward nonviolent Islamic missionary work and grassroots “Islamization from below.” Main Findings The collapse of Suharto’s regime and Indonesia’s transition towards democracy gave impetus to the emergence of various Islamists groups competing for the liberated public sphere. The most radical among these groups—such as the Front Pembela Islam (FPI), the Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the Laskar Jihad (LJ), and the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI)—rejected participation intheexistingsystem,callinginsteadforviolentjihad.Theradicalandmilitantgroups’success waging jihad in Indonesia’s conflict areas paralleled the phenomenal development of the Islamist media in the country, which played a crucial role in disseminating propaganda and directing public opinion. The pressures of the Indonesian government and pro-democracy Muslim groups against violent Islamist discourse and jihadist activism, however, have gradually forced the transnational Islamist groups to leave behind their high profile politics and shift towards a strategy of implementing the shari‘a from below at the grassroots level. No longer seeing violent jihad as a relevant means for realizing their goals, many groups now argue that da‘wa is more appropriate to foster Indonesian Muslims’ awareness of their duty to uphold the supremacy of the shari‘a. These groups also believe that nonviolent endeavors are more suitable to Indonesia’s current situation and crucial to defend Muslim solidarity and the long-term struggle for a comprehensive Islamic order. Policy Implications Organizationally, Indonesia’s transnational Islamist groups are largely broken; their leaders • • and members are mired in debates and conflicts. However, as social movements, embedded in interpersonal networks and informal nodes of activism, they retain deep roots and visions of establishing an Islamic state. Some seek to consolidate themselves by fanning the flames of sensitive Islamic issues, but they have to first confront the Indonesian government and the prodemocracy alliances that firmly reject jihadism. The one hope for the militant jihadists depends on the mushrooming • • da‘wa groups which designate Indonesia’s youth as the main target for Islamizing society at the individual level. Although such groups seemingly delegitimize the jihadists’ struggle, their growing influence among youths no doubt broadens the Islamist constituences that can potentially be drawn into the jihadist orbits. This is especially so if the state and civil society forces fail to demonstrate their commitment for good governance and accountability and systematically campaign for democracy and human rights. 123 Transnational Islam in Indonesia u Hasan H ometothelargestMuslimpopulationintheworld,Indonesiahasgenerallybeenassociated with a peaceful and tolerant form of Islam and even perceived as a country developing into the most pluralist and democracy-friendly nation-state in the entire Muslim world. The rise of militant Islamist groups in post-Suharto Indonesia, however, calling for jihad and other violent actions, raised concerns. Underlying these militant groups’ demands for the comprehensive application of the shari‘a (Islamic law) was skepticism of the existing system that, they claimed, had created the opportunity for a global Zionist-American conspiracy to alter Indonesia’s course to becoming an Islamic state. No doubt, the growing influence of radical Islam in post-Suharto Indonesia has raised questions about the way Indonesian Islam has increasingly become infused with the transnational Islamist discourse and activism arising from a pan-Islamic awakening and global jihadism. Scholars argue that unprecedented global flows of people, ideas, cultures and civilizations are currently modifying conventional conceptions of...


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