Feb 19, 2014

"The Battle for the 'True Islam' in Indonesia - The Ahmadiyya Debate and the Politics of Exclusion"


Saskia Shäfer
, Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

This presentation explores the public debates on the Indonesian Ahmadiyya, a group that has been persecuted for its supposedly heterodox beliefs. It outlines the most important voices and actors in the debate and shows how the Council of Indonesian Islamic Scholars (MUI), despite its position outside the state apparatus, constitutes the strongest moral authority on questions concerning Islam. The Ahmadiyya debate has become a contested field in which their opponents and defenders deploy the languages of religion, security, human rights and nationalism. Several mechanisms of exclusion cut across these different lines of arguments. The debate also makes the stark fragmentation of Indonesian opinion regarding the relationship between Islam and the state visible. Rather than a common shift towards either a more conservative-exclusivist or a more liberal-inclusivist interpretation of Islam in Indonesia, this fragmentation is a crucial characteristic of contemporary Indonesian politics.

Saskia Schäfer is the 2013-2014 Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. Before that, she was a lecturer at the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt Universität Berlin and completed her doctorate at Freie Universität Berlin after obtaining her Magistra Artium in Southeast Asian Studies, Political Science and Literature at Humboldt Universität. She has lived and conducted fieldwork in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore for several years. Her research focuses on Indonesian and Malaysian politics, especially on religious and political authority, media discourses, secularism, public morality, and Islamic feminism.

 

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