Challenging Assumptions about Muslim Education and Fundamentalism in Indonesia

by Steven R. Corman

Readers of this blog will be interested in an article by Mark Woodward (a frequent contributor to this blog) and his colleagues Inayah Rohmaniyah, Ali Amin and Diana Coleman in the most recent issue of Perspectives on Terrorism.  The paper, based on years of ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia, challenges the popular notion that fundamentalism and religious education have a causal connection to violent extremism.  They have observed that, to the contrary, knowledge of Islamic theology tends to inoculate against extremism and that secular universities are more hospitable to radical discourse than religious schools.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The paper refutes the linkage of Muslim education in Indonesia with radicalization, and addresses the commonly held, if incorrect, perception that theological conservatism has a causal relationship with violent extremism. Rather than a causal agent for extremism, Muslim education in Indonesia tends to operate as a protective mechanism against radicalization, as does participation in vibrant religious and cultural celebrations. Students attending the secular universities are most susceptible to extremist discourse, through the process of re-Islamization and the development of a stark and detached rational understanding of Islam.