Is conservative Islam gaining ground in Indonesia? The gubernatorial elections in Jakarta have convinced many that the political clout of Islamic organizations has grown. Demands that the incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – a Christian of ethnic Hakka Chinese descent better known as Ahok – be convicted of blasphemy have been front and centre of efforts to diminish his electoral popularity. Furthermore, mass demonstrations by Islamic conservatives against the governor have dwarfed policy debates between the gubernatorial candidates.
As Amnesty International have reported, the charge of blasphemy has become increasingly common, with an estimated 106 convictions for blasphemy between 2005 and 2014, compared to approximately 10 during the 33 years of Suharto’s New Order. These developments suggest that religion is increasingly politicised in a country known for its moderate version of Islam.
Yet, not everything is as it seems. During the first round of the elections, Ahok still managed to eke out a small victory. Furthermore, Islamic identity may have played a crucial role in mobilising demonstrators, but the size and success of the rallies was in no small part due to established support networks between Islamic conservatives and politicians who wished to usurp the popular governor.
Accordingly, this talk discusses the ramifications of sectarian mobilisation, debating the wider implications of the Jakarta elections for the agenda of Islamic advocates and their ability to utilise religious and ethnic identity for political purpose. Sidney Jones, a prominent expert on Islam and terrorism in Indonesia will discuss these issues together with Chris Chaplin, a postdoctoral researcher at KITLV.
Sidney Jones: Director, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Jakarta, Indonesia. From 2002 to 2013, Jones worked with the International Crisis Group, first as Southeast Asia project director, then from 2007 as senior adviser to the Asia program. Before joining Crisis Group, she worked for the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and New York (1977-84); Amnesty International in London as the Indonesia-Philippines-Pacific researcher (1985-88); and Human Rights Watch in New York as the Asia director (1989-2002). She holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She lived in Shiraz, Iran for one year as a university student, 1971-72, and studied Arabic in Cairo and Tunisia. She received an honorary doctorate in 2006 from the New School in New York.
Chris Chaplin: Researcher, KITLV / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies. Chris is a postdoctoral researcher at the KITLV, where he is investigating the influence of conservative Islamic movements on ideas of citizenship and civic activism within Indonesian society, specifically focusing on Islamic activism within South Sulawesi. Prior to joining the KITLV, he completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge concerning Salafi piety and mobilisation in Java. Chris has also spent seven years living in Indonesia, researching and consulting for a number of international development institutions and human rights NGOs on issues of village development, elections, and security sector reform. He has been fortunate enough to have spent extensive time living in Java, Sulawesi and West Papua.
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