Launch of PIES group book

PIES alumni with Dr Bradley Armstrong, Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy in Jakarta

April 2017 saw the book launch of Muslim Subjectivity: Spektrum Islam Indonesia, written and edited by the 2015 PIES group. The chapters of the book are based on the research of each program participant.

The book begins with Aisyah Arsyad’s chapter examining the issue of nikah siri (hidden marriage), a form of unregistered marriage that continues to exist in Indonesia outside state law because it is deemed valid under orthodox interpretations of Islamic law. Aisyah, from UIN Alauddin in Makassar, argues that nikah siri has negative consequences for women and children and perpetuates patriarchy.

Next is a chapter by Muhammad Irfan Hasanuddin of STAIN Palopo which examines the transnational Islamic movement Jamaah Tabligh in Palopo, South Sulawesi. Irfan asks how and why this movement has been so successful in attracting adherents in the region and he locates this in the context of the burgeoning popularity of new religious movements in Indonesia.

Muhammad Muntahibun Nafis from IAIN Tulungagung presents a detailed case study of Pesantren Ngalah, an Islamic boarding school well known for its pluralist Islamic education and for reaching out to non-Muslim communities. Nafis explores the success of the pesantren and considers if it represents a model that can be used by other schools seeking to promote diversity and tolerance.

In chapter four, Muhammad Rozali  from STAI al-Hikmah in North Sumatra critically examines the religious leadership and educational role of al-Jamiatul Washliyah, the largest traditionalist Islamic organisation in Sumatra. He argues that the quality of education and Islamic scholarship of the organisation is declining, due to growing involvement of the organisation’s leaders in politics and the harmful impact of state education policies.

Rofhani of UIN Sunan Ampel in Surabaya studies the religious behaviour, life style, aspirations and consumption patterns of middle class women in her home city. In this chapter, she focuses on Muslim dress as a reflection of the status and religiosity of the women who adopt it. Adopting this new style of dressing is, Rofhani argues, about being a modern Muslim woman; open-minded, accommodative and elegant, but pious. Different forms of dress enable women to signal both their socio-economic status and their level of piety.

Finally, Siti Mahmudah of IAIN Raden Intan in Lampung writes about the thought of the progressive Egyptian scholar Kholil Abdul Karim, whose work, she contends has much relevance for Indonesia, particularly in response to the polarisation between fundamentalist and liberal understandings of the faith.

Muslim Subjectivity: Spektrum Islam Indonesia was launched at the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, on 4 April 2017. The event was hosted by Minister-Counsellor, Dr Bradley Armstrong, and the book was formally launched by the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Director-General of Islamic Education, Professor Kamaruddin Amin, who has been a staunch supporter of the PIES program.  There was record attendance at the launch of more than 70 people, including many PIES alumni. We are grateful to the work done by Ms Alison Purnell and her staff in the embassy’s Advocacy and Outreach Section in organising the launch so successfully.

PIES alumni at the 2017 book launch

PIES book authors with the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Director-General of Islamic Education, Professor Kamaruddin Amin (centre) and Minister-Counsellor (far right), and Greg Fealy and Sally White.

Muslim Subjectivity: Spektrum Islam Indonesia