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Kushay's Matter Bank Politics

[AK] Islamic Populism 101 by Alif Azadi Taufik

This note will discuss the concept of Islamic Populism; what it means and how it works.

What is populism?

Populism is a contested word. Scholars continue to disagree with its definition. Historically, populism is used as a negative pejorative “An ideology which pits virtuous and homogenous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice” (Albertazzi and McDonnel, 2008)

Populism is not confined to the right -left political spectrum. Instead, it packages deeper political ideologies along populist framing. Populist offer “politics of redemption” instead of “politics of pragmatism”.

Populist still believe in that democracy is the best form of government, by promise to reclaim democracy to its rightful owners. They present themselves not as threats but as
saviors of democracy. Populism is susceptible to demagogy, because it can be captured by charismatic leaders.

Populism in Islam: The emergence of right-wing Islamic populism in Indonesia

Right-wing Islamic populism: The people are the ummah, though conceptionally transnational, its manifested nationally in Indonesia. The elites are foreign powers, Chinese business owners, and corrupt political parties want to increase the power of Islam in Indonesian state affairs and culture. Push for Islamic laws to be implemented, attacks against religious minorities, semi -political demonstrations

Factors for the rise of right -wing Islamic populism in Indonesia

1. Religious doctrine; Rise of antipathies “moderate base” and of energetic “fringe base”

2. Lack of strong ideological alternatives in Indonesia, failure of the traditional parties to respond to electoral problems

3. High inequality among Indonesians. Those well off are often “modern” and favors suppression of Muslim groups like what happened throughout Suharto’s era.
4 Narrative of self-victimization; Crackdowns by current administration
5. Presence of organizations such as the FPI and fire-brand ulama savvy use of social media

Future for Indonesian democracy
Might be following the path of Turkey, with a polarization between Islamic parties and secular parties. The emergence of ideological politics in Indonesia Probably see a rise in strength of the right-wing Islamic populism. A pushback can only happen until a coalition of moderates and liberal leaning electorates can form.

((UPDATE)): As of 2024, Islamic populism seems to be well supressed in Indonesia through various Jokowi’s policies to ban FPI, HTI, etc.

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