Dr. Michael Prager
Dr. Michael Prager
Senior Researcher
Politicized Islam in Indonesia: Between "Scripturalism" and "Neo-Sufism"

Institut für Ethnologie der Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Studtstr. 21
D - 48149 Münster

Tel.: +49 (0)251 / 83-27310
Fax: +49 (0)251 / 83-27313

Email: pragermichael@hotmail.com
My university website.

Politicized Islam in Indonesia: Between "Scripturalism" and "Neo-Sufism"

This project compares two contrasting forms of contemporary Islam in Indonesia and the resulting religious dynamics that have unfolded in different regional settings within this island state that contains the world’s largest Muslim population.  

The first part of the investigation examines the reform of Indonesian Islam, i.e trends that aim to “purify” the faith and return to an “authentic,” “scripturalistic” form of Islam and its accompanying formalized orthopraxy. Drawing inspiration mainly from Islamic modernism in the Middle East, these reformatory trends have in recent years gained prominence at the level of the national government and the Central Muslim Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia) as well as in Muslim dominated provinces. Of central importance here is looking at how these reformative trends operate on local political and institutional levels via the nationwide construction of reform-influenced schools and identifying which religious conflicts and dynamics can be identified at the village level with regards to the growing antagonism of syncretistic-infused belief systems and modes of interaction.
The second part of the project highlights largely unnoticed variations of contemporary Islam in Indonesia, namely those grouped under the term “neo-Sufism” who constitute a reaction against the hegemonic discourses of reformative Islam. Several neo-Sufi organizations and movements have surfaced over the last few years among the urbanized middle class and, although they have been long considered obsolete, several classical Sufi “orders”  (taraket, Arabic: tariqa) such as the  Akmaliyah have made an astonishing comeback in recent years and have been able to recruit thousands of new followers.

By using a systematic comparison to examine case studies from West Sumbawa (reformative Islam) and the East Javanese city of Malang (neo-Sufism), the religious dynamics and field of controversy of present-day Islam in Indonesia will be fundamentally analyzed.