Political Islam

After writing so many stories on current politics while in Jakarta, I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of Indonesia’s ideological currents (aliran) as a kind of counterweight to the rather superficial constant manoeuvrings of the political elite.

This ended up as a long article on the political economy of Islamic parties.



Hicks, Jacqueline (2012), ‘The Missing Link: Explaining the Political Mobilisation of Islam in Indonesia’, Journal of Contemporary Asia 42 (1), 39-66. 

  • Why are Islamic political parties not popular in Indonesia?
  • Taking a political economy perspective, I argue that the social welfare functions of the two giant Islamic civil society organisations has traditionally helped channel votes to their associated Islamic political parties.
  • Now, some of those functions in health and education have been taken over by the state, weakening ties between Islamic parties and the populace.



Working for Amnesty International, I was deeply moved by meeting some members of a religious minority, Ahmadiyah, who were violently threatened by some elements of fundamentalist Islam in the country.





Again, I wanted a deeper analysis of these events. Inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s view of religion as a field of competitive struggle to gain symbolic capital and authority, I wrote a long article on how the charge of heresy against the Ahmadiyah was used to consolidate political authority.



Hicks, Jacqueline (2014), ‘Heresy and authority: Understanding the turn against Ahmadiyah in Indonesia’, Southeast Asia Research, 22 (3), 321-339. 

  • How can we explain violence against religious minorities?
  • Rather than just describing the actors or doctrinal differences involved in charges of heresy within Islam, I situate the discourse of heresy within wider processes of maintaining political and social authority.
  • Shows how charges of heresy has been used throughout history to consolidate political authority.
  • Situates the process within the context of increased competition among religious authorities after the breakdown of an authoritarian regime.


And a few more digestible articles on the influence of some high profile hard-line Islamic groups:


“Groups running amok,” VZ Report on Indonesia, Vol. VIII (11) (June 29, 2006). Islamic vigilante groups
“Creeping Sharia?,” VZ Report on Indonesia, Vol. VIII (8) (May 9, 2006). Sharia-based local regulations
“Human rights nil, intolerance 1,” VZ Report on Indonesia, Vol. IX (8) (May 10, 2007). Sharia-based local regulations