Fear and Loathing: Uncivil Islamism and Indonesia’s Anti-Ahok Movement
Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman; Waikar, Prashant
This article seeks to understand and explain the discursive strategies used by far-right Islamist groups to popularize sentiment against Ahok (Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, former governor of Jakarta) and ruin his political career. This paper, which analyses the period when anti-Ahok rallies in Jakarta were common, blends three ideas. First, it discusses and reverses the logic of civil Islam, as put forth by Robert Hefner, to define far-right Islamist groups as uncivil. Second, it links uncivility with majoritarian insecurity and the way in which the politics of fear is used to mobilize majorities against minorities. Third, it discusses how and why uncivil groups use symbolic violence to ideologically attack minorities in order to manage the majorities’ perceived insecurities. Three themes are discussed in this article. First, through Ahok’s ethnic identification, Indonesian Chinese were conflated with China, communist ungodliness, and, thus, a quasi-demonic threat to Islam. Second, Ahok’s rise to the governorship was framed as a dangerous symbol of the perceived ascendance of Indonesian Chinese to positions of political power. Third, Ahok was claimed to be leading the charge of a Christian takeover of Indonesia by co-opting abangan Muslims, such as Jokowi. This paper uses primary and secondary research, including interviews with key leaders of far-right Islamist groups. It concludes with implications for Indonesia’s religio-political landscape.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 89-109
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program