School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)

APSS Workshop

Being a Muslim in Secularised and Globalised Indonesia:
Propagation and Practice

Convenor: Dr Minako Sakai (UNSW Canberra)

Following the successful year of the APSS seminar in 2011, we have chosen the 2012 theme as Towards Sustainable Development in the Asia Pacific: Community, Security and Environment. We will explore how various institutions and communities are approaching the issue of sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region in 2012. We will focus on various key issues affecting the socio-economic development of the region. Some of the topics may include population growth, disaster resilience, sustainable energy and transport, philanthropic and corporate social responsibility, education, community networks and human security and civil society organisations.

In view of the APSS 2012 theme, we will hold a workshop to explore the role of Islam in socio-economic development in Indonesia. We aim to hold a workshop to give feedback to each others and produce publications.

Date: 3 May 2012, Thursday
Time: 11:00-4:30
Venue: UNSW Canberra
Please contact Dr Minako Sakai ( if you wish to attend, thank you.


Paper Abstracts

Triangulating Islam: The Complex Relationships of Modernity between Nation, Adat and Islam in the Writings of HAMKA.

Paul Tickell (UNSW Canberra)

How does Islam face the challenges of modernity? How does Islam face the dominance of the West? In a globalised word of near instant communication there is a tendency for Islam and its responses to these questions to be viewed both from within and from outside in an increasingly homogenised way. Contemporary experience - and mass media reporting in particular - makes us all familiar with the 'fundamentalist' response, which often appears as a kind of 'hermeneutic contortion' where Islamic scripture is cited to justify and explain positions on various 'modern' issues (e.g. the status of women, democracy et cetera). We may be also familiar with a 'rejectionist' response, which sees modernity and the challenges of its freedoms being rejected as 'un-Islamic' and therefore irrelevant. Both of these responses assume a certain singularity in Islam.

Singularity is, of course, a necessity for any religion that claims to present a universal message, yet it is also a claim that is often undercut by the realities of local conditions. Localised variants of Islam suggest both plurality and perhaps an element of more localised political expediency where Islam is concerned. This paper will explore the tensions that surround the idea(l) and practice of modernity in Islam when viewed against local political exigency and broader struggles of national liberation in a colonial context. Using the fictional works of Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah (or HAMKA, as he is more often know) (1908-1971) as a starting point, it will be suggested that his work can be understood more fruitfully by 'triangulating' three cultural/political factors:

The unspoken 'elephant in the room' in this discussion will be Dutch colonialism (and perhaps by extension, Western domination of the Moslem world). HAMKA ignores the Dutch in his fiction and they simply do not appear in his work. What are we to assume about this absence? What does the interaction and at times confrontation between Islam, adat and nationalism have to say about Indonesian Islamic responses to the cultural and political challenges of modernity and change in the pre-World War II period?

Secular medium and religious meaning: Propagating Islam among Indonesian Muslims

Minako Sakai (UNSW Canberra)

This paper will focus on emegent ways by which Islam has been propagated among Muslim youth in Indonesia. My paper will highlight Habiburrhahman El Shirazy, a popular novelist and his approaches to propagate Islam through creative art production (films and novels) and his family-owned educational institution, Pesantren Basmala. He has written stories which attract younger Indonesians but which also strongly promotes Islamic ways of successful life. His best seller books evolve around the themes of love, marriage, evangelism, and business skills. Habiburrahman is a graduate from an Islamic boarding school near Semarang and pursued his tertiary education in Al Azhar University in Cairo. Because he is well-liked, his, best-selling novels Ayat-Ayat Cinta and Ketika Cinta Bertasbih (KCB) have been made into popular films. What is unique about him is that he has taken a leadership role in the production and promotion of KCB films. As he did not want to use professional film stars in his film he organised a series of auditions in major Indonesian towns. The audition and selection processes were strongly motivated by his wish as a preacher of Islam to promote an ideal Islamic way of life to community members who did not grown up in Islamic boarding schools. In addition to writing, Habiburrhahman runs an Islamic boarding school for the secular university students (UNDIP) in Semarang. This paper, drawing data from my fieldwork and text analysis, will focus on Habiburrhahman's preaching strategy to mainstream Islam for the Indonesian Muslims who have grown up in secular and globalised environments.

Propagating a pious yet trendy Muslim:
Forum Lingkar Pena Da'wa Movement among Muslim Youths in Contemporary Indonesia

Najib Kailani (PhD student UNSW Canberra)

This paper is aimed at investigating the da'wa movement of the Forum Lingkar Pena (FLP) among Muslim youths in contemporary Indonesia. Forum Lingkar Pena is an organization which was founded by some Tarbiyah campus activists in 1997 at the University of Indonesia, Jakarta. The primary purpose of the organization is to train young Muslim writers who are aiming to propagate Islam through short stories, comics and novels targeting Indonesian Muslim youth reader in Indonesia. Based on the analysis of textual material such as short stories and comics and field research conducted in 2008-2009 among the writers of the Forum Lingkar Pena in Yogyakarta, this paper will show how the Forum Lingkar Pena writers have packaged Islam in forms of pop culture to reach and attract young Muslim readers. The FLP activists have propagated an image of a pious yet trendy Muslim through their writings. This paper will argue that the popularity of Forum Lingkar Pena among Muslim youths in contemporary Indonesia is attributed to two reasons. First, I argue that it is because of the rise of Islamic publication industry in late of Soeharto era, and second because of the decline of morality among the Muslim youth in the Reformasi era. This paper will explore the nature of contemporary Muslim youth movements in Indonesia through my case study of the Forum Lingkar Pena.

Traditional Islam and Economic Development:
A Case Study of Pesantren Sidogiri, Pasuruan, Indonesia

M. Falikul Isbah (PhD student UNSW Canberra)

This study shows that traditional Islamic boarding school (pesantren) can be a successful actor in community-based economic development. The Pesantren Sidogiri in East Java carries out its socio-economic role for the benefit of its students, alumni, and neighbouring communities. Its business is managed through three cooperatives: two Islamic microfinance cooperatives, and one cooperative in a grocery chain. In today's discussions on Indonesian pesantren, the Pesantren Sidogiri can be considered as a traditional (salafiyah) pesantren which does not adopt modern schooling system and secular subjects for its curriculum. However, its success in operating modern economic institutions and practices in the form of microfinance and its significant success is unique and rarely found in other traditional pesantren institutions. Using Social Capital theory and fieldwork findings, this study reveals two important findings regarding the role of Islam in contemporary socio-economic development in Indonesia. First, the rapid expansion of the three Cooperatives into hundreds of branches located in many districts in East Java is arguably facilitated by the rich social capital that has been embedded in its networks. Second, the internalized Islamic values that operate as work culture also reproduces social capital, which continuously strengthens its business networks. These findings indicate that a pesantren with a very traditional curriculum and culture can foster its role in community development if they make most of their rich social capital embedded in their close social networks.

The Voice of Syarifah on Jakartan Da'wa Stage

Eva Amrullah (ANU)

Islamic Da'wa (proselytisation) has been flourishing in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, with a variety of innovations adjusted to the needs of urban Muslims. It has also become a part of the business world, which can be seen from the presence of majelis ta'lim (council or a meeting place for learning Islam) for upper class elites (Hasan 2009). Yet little research has been done on the current role of young female preachers who have become important agents for the proliferation of majelis ta'lim in Jakarta, especially the role of syarifah (a female descendant of the Prophet MuḼammad) whose position in the religious arena is often regarded as being more prestigious than that of female native preachers. This article focuses on a talented female preacher belonging to the family of the Prophet Syarifah Halimah Alaydrus. She is not only active in arranging majelis ta'lim (Abaza 2004) but also in strengthening the position of syarifah within the Jakartan da'wa milieu. I analyse the role of Alaydrus in the development of da'wa and her position amidst the increasing number of mostly male "pop" preachers in Indonesia. Alaydrus's talent and her achievement in becoming one of the students of the world famous habib (a male descendant of the Prophet MuḼammad), Habib Umar bin Hafiz, have made her voice authoritative both locally and transnationally. The case of Alaydrus demonstrates not only the new visibility of syarifah in Indonesian public Islam, but also illuminates the significant role played by female Indonesian preachers in the global Muslim world.