Islamic preaching in Indonesia has not only undergone a process of radicalization, but also of democratization, according to Indonesian scholar Noorhaidi Hasan, who spoke on new media and public Islam at the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (August 2-5), which RW attended. Increasingly, people have come to believe that Islam can be implemented in daily practice without necessarily sacrificing the benefits of globalization as enjoyed by the middle class. A new sense of piety is present, but there is also a dimension of entertainment in religious activities, which are ways of socializing, according to Hasan.
One sees the rise of new religious figures who are alumni of national education systems and have acquired their religious knowledge through self-study or participation in small discussion groups. Well-known examples are Muhammad Arifin Ilham, Abdullah Gymnastiar and Jeffry al-Buchari. They may be religiously less literate than their classical predecessors, but they tend to link religious teachings with political and cultural dimensions.
They attract a middle class audience, not always interested in Islamic activism, but eager to express an Islamic identity. Muslims can now choose from a wider range of options. The new media, such as the Internet, plays a role here, featuring Islam as a part of global culture, providing means of interactive communication and enabling everybody to share religious reflections. It is true that the role of the new media is ambivalent; they also facilitate violent mobilization and fuel Islamic militancy. However, Hasan expects that such trends are bound to fail in the long-run, since they contradict public rationality and a new kind of post-Islamist piety which is on the increase – and not only in Indonesia.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer