Ahmadis or Indonesians?

The Polarization of Post-Reform Public Debates on Islam and Orthodoxy

Author: Saskia Schäfer


Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, Indonesian public discourse about "mainstream" Muslim identity and practice has polarized sharply into various factions. This article offers a detailed analysis of a subset of this discourse that focuses on the Ahmadiyya in order to grasp how the new normative contours of Islam are being shaped in Indonesia. I make three arguments: First, the discourse is homogenizing what was once a wide spectrum of identitarian positions, and that consequently, Islamic diversity in Indonesia is shrinking. Second, the various internally homogenized sets of arguments for and against the Ahmadiyya mis-engage with each other in a way that produces social fragmentation and further polarization. Third, these arguments produce exclusionary mechanisms that reinforce each other. Both the opponents of the Ahmadiyya, as well as their defenders, exclude Ahmadis from conceptions of an Indonesian "majority." This dynamic in Indonesian public discourse has resulted in the acceleration of the marginalization of the Ahmadiyya within an increasingly fragmented Indonesian society.

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© 2002 ILO/Deloche P.