Study points to Java’s Islamist youth

One in five students in further and higher education in Java support the establishment of an Indonesian caliphate instead of a secular government, according to a survey.

There are sizeable Hindus, Christians and traditional believers in the archipelago and religious diversity is enshrined in its constitution but Indonesia’s 202 million Muslims outnumber those of all the West Asian states combined.

Islamist groups, like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), are increasingly seeking a political stage for their cause in Indonesia and spreading their message through the ever-growing use of social media. Last year, 71.6 million Indonesians were reportedly using Facebook, WhatsApp 35.8 million, Instagram 19.9 million and Line 37.6 million.

More than 4,200 Muslim students, mostly from Java, were consulted for the survey.
Java, the island on which Jakarta is located, has about 60 per cent of Indonesia’s population of roughly 250 million, while making up just 7 per cent of its territory.

Almost 25 per cent of students reportedly said, to some extent, they were ready to conduct a jihad to achieve a caliphate.

“This indicates that intolerant teachings have already entered top universities and high schools,” announced Alvara, the polling firm.

“The government and moderate Islamic organisations must start taking tangible steps to anticipate this and be present in student circles with language that is easy for them to understand,” it argued.

On September 29, protesters in Jakarta accused President Joko Widodo of undermining democracy and religion through a decree banning mass gatherings and allegedly supporting communists.

The FPI calls for sharia law to be imposed and argue that all political leaders should be Muslim. In 2013, the FPI leader Rizieq Shihab rejected the idea of elections, telling Muslims that supporting democracy was comparable to eating pork.

Last month a presidential decree was approved by parliamentarians banning any group deemed to be campaigning against “Pancasila”, the secular state ideology.

The largely peaceful Islamist group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which called for the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia, was the first group to be outlawed by the legislation, without a trial.

Rights activists have condemned the decree, which was supported by moderate groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation. The legislation was labelled a “troubling violation” of the rights to freedom of association and expression.

In September, Widodo called on an audience of around 3,000 university administrators to promote the Pancasila ideology.

Islamic protesters in Jakarta this March. Picture credit: Wikimedia