Islamic Morality and Challenges to Democracy: A Study of Urban Lower and Middle Class Responses

The 2016 Australia-Indonesia Centre Perceptions Report shows that a vast majority of Australians (75 per cent) associate Indonesians with their religion, which demonstrates the importance of deeper understanding of the country’s majority religion, namely Islam. Recent developments in Indonesian Islam have shown worrying undemocratic signs, most recently the mass mobilisations of lower- as well as middle-class Muslims directed against the ethnic-Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta popularly known as Ahok. These developments appear to challenge notions that Indonesia could readily serve as a model of liberalisation and democratisation for other Muslim-majority societies.

Understanding such developments is important to Australia because they relate to the forging of attitudes towards politics, community and Indonesia’s relationship with the rest of the world. This is especially so because Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and is widely regarded as its third largest democracy.

The projects aims to investigate:

  • What social conditions confronted in the everyday lives of urban lower and middle class Indonesians have created fertile ground for conservative forms of Islamic morality and how this kind of morality assist in coping with and making sense of these social conditions.
  • How distinctive forms of Islamic conservatism are making incursions into sections of the urban lower and middle classes, what are the material bases of such incursions and how do they relate to new anxieties and insecurities caused by precarity and immersion in an increasingly competitive economy set in rapidly transforming urban landscapes.
  • How responsiveness to the political lexicon of conservative Islamic morality is related to these developments, and how cultural consumption patterns and expressions of self-identities provide clues about the sources and nature of such anxieties and insecurities.

Project Leads

Professor Vedi Renandi Hadiz

Professor Vedi Renandi Hadiz

Professor and Convenor of Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts

The University of Melbourne

Dr Inaya Rakhmani

Dr Inaya Rakhmani

Lecturer, Director of Communication Research Centre

Universitas Indonesia