Concept of Indonesian caliphate luring youth

1 in 5 Muslim students backs formation of caliphate, with 1 in 4 ready to fight for it: Poll

JAKARTA • Nearly 20 per cent of high-school and university students in Indonesia support the establishment of a caliphate in the world's largest Muslim-majority country over the current secular government, a new survey showed this week.

Indonesia has, in recent years, seen its longstanding reputation for religious tolerance come under scrutiny as hardline Islamic groups muscle their way into public and political life in the young democracy.

The vast majority of Indonesians practise a moderate form of Islam and the country has sizeable minorities of Hindus, Christians, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs. Religious diversity is enshrined in its Constitution.

The survey by a Jakarta-based organisation polled over 4,200 Muslim students, mostly in top schools and universities on Java island, home to over half the country's population.

Nearly one in four students said he was, to varying degrees, ready to fight for his religious beliefs to achieve a caliphate.

"This indicates that intolerant teachings have already entered top universities and high schools," pollster Alvara, which carried out the survey, said in its report released on Tuesday.

"The government and moderate Islamic organisations must start taking tangible steps to anticipate this and be present in student circles with language that is easy for them to understand," it added.

A presidential spokesman declined to comment on the findings.

Hardline Islamic groups late last year led mass street rallies against Jakarta's former governor, a Christian, whom they believed had insulted Islam. They eventually succeeded in derailing Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's re-election bid in April this year, and he was subsequently jailed for blasphemy. The ruling was criticised globally as unjust.


Groups like the Islamic Defenders Front call for syariah law to be imposed on the country, and believe its leaders should only be Muslim.

The survey showed that the vast majority of students disagree with the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and violence.

But the authorities have repeatedly warned against the creeping influence of radical Islamic thought among student organisations and in campus activities.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2017, with the headline 'Concept of Indonesian caliphate luring youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe