20 Years After Reformasi: Democratisation and the Politics of In/Exclusion in Indonesia and Malaysia
Time & LocationSession 12
Fri 15:30–17:00 Room 1.103
- Saskia Schäfer Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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- Bringing Trans-Women Back to “Fitrah”: Social Engineering Through Religious Education and the Use of Islamic ALMS in Malaysia Timea Greta Biro Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Since the spectacular downfall of the “eternal” UMNO/BN government in May 2018, the Malaysian socio-political landscape has been fiercely contested by competing and often vocally expressed normative ideas, with diverse voices articulating conflicting visions for a “New Malaysia” (Malaysia Baru), enabled by newly (re)opened democratic spaces in what may (or may not) become a “post-authoritarian” Malaysian public sphere. Among others, clashes unfold between proponents of an approach to Islamic governance that is calling for strengthening a monolithic and exclusionary understanding of Islam, and social actors advocating for minority rights and more pluralistically oriented social citizenship and democratic values. Sexual minorities are at the centre of controversial debates between state-Islamic authorities, government and civil society agents and members of community based NGOs working with marginalized populations. Based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in 2017/8, Timea Greta Biro’s paper examines interface situations between state-Islamic bureaucracies and Muslim trans-women, focusing in particular on government attempts to “rehabilitate” transgender people (i.e. bringing them back to the “normal” heterosexual state, fitrah, enabling "good Muslims citizenship“), which are partly enacted through educational measures funded by state-administered Islamic alms (zakat). The paper elucidates the complex ways trans-women negotiate or resist the course and outcomes of such “moral conversion” projects and their wider context of structural exclusion, while they also utilize democratizing spaces to exercise their own agency and claim their rights to publicly recognized social citizenship.
- Democratization and the Politics of Blasphemy in Indonesia and Malaysia Azmil Tayeb University of Science, Malaysia
Hew Wai Weng National University of Malaysia
One crucial aspect of democratization is the opening up of political space that allows various groups to mobilize and make their demands heard. In Indonesia, the Reformasi era after 1998 provides a fertile environment for political Islam to thrive. The post-1998 democratization process in Indonesia has largely empowered Muslim activists especially those who were politically marginalized during the New Order era. Meanwhile in Malaysia, Islam has long been an integral part of the political landscape as the country experienced the Islamic resurgent wave in the late 1970s. UMNO and PAS, two Malay-Muslim political parties, competed with each other to be the sole authority of Islam in Malaysia. On 9 May 2018, the Malaysian voters chose to change the federal government, which was hitherto dominated by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for the past sixty years. One repercussion of the change of federal government is the heightened perception of threats against the special position of Malays and Islam in Malaysia, namely due to the more ethnically-mixed composition of the new ruling coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its “anti-Islamic” policies. Instead of empowerment, the process of democratization in Malaysia, as ushered in by the change of federal government in 2018, has created a deep sense of insecurity among the Malay-Muslim community, most of whom did not vote for the PH government in the last election. This paper looks at the effects of democratization on Islamic political activism in Indonesia and Malaysia through the politics of religious blasphemy, in particular how charges of blasphemy have increased exponentially during the Reformasi era for both countries. According to Setara Institute, there have been 97 blasphemy cases between 1965 and 2017 in Indonesia (since the enactment of the 1965 Blasphemy Law), and an astounding 88 of them took place after 1998. In Malaysia, according to the Malaysian Royal Police, 929 reports have been lodged so far over insults on Islam, Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Siti Aisyah. The PH government is currently mulling a religious blasphemy law akin to the one in Indonesia. This paper argues that the rise of blasphemy politics is driven by empowered Islamic activists in Indonesia and the pervasive insecurity of the Malay-Muslim community in Malaysia, enabled by the process of democratization in both countries. It also examines the role of social media and Islamic preachers in shaping Muslim opinions on religious blasphemy.
- Reformasi and the City: Urban Development Politics in Indonesia After 1998 Rita Padawangi Singapore University of Social Sciences
After Reformasi, political reform in Indonesia had brought changes to local politics. Decentralization led to cities’ and regencies’ local autonomy in planning and budgeting, as well as direct elections of mayors and regents. While these changes seem to reflect democracy across scales from the national to the local, there needs to be further examination on the spatial manifestations of these processes. How democratic are urban development politics in Indonesia evolve after Reformasi? In examining urban development politics, in this paper I look at decision-making processes of urban-scale development projects, with specific focus on housing and public spaces in Jakarta and Surabaya. Prior to Reformasi, Suharto’s oppressive New Order regime had already ushered an exponential growth of urban population and areas, infrastructure projects, and service provisions in support of Indonesia’s immersion into the global economy. After Reformasi, perceived urban development in cities have propelled local leaders into national fame, which indicates political appeal incentives for elected officials to implement tangible development projects. In spite of notable transformations after Reformasi in terms of budget transparency and advocacy, popular emphases on visual appearances, service delivery and infrastructure developments have obscured the fact that processes and actors behind urban developments keep remnants of the New Order era. Meanwhile, although civil society groups can carve spaces of resistance in the city through progressive initiatives, comparable opportunities also apply to sectarian groups within the civil society. Furthermore, the extensive commodification of urban spaces continue to constrain and co-opt the role of civil society groups in urban development.
Amidst financial crises, reformasi (reformation) movements kicked off in Indonesia and Malaysia in 1998, which had contributed to the fall of New Order Regime in Indonesia and to the weakening of the ruling regime in Malaysia (which was finally voted out by most Malaysians in 2018). The opening up of democratic space, on one hand, leads to the growth of various inclusive and progressive social movements; yet on the other hand, it also allows exclusive and conservative social forces to become more visible and influential. It is what Karl Popper terms as ‘the paradox of tolerance’ which might be detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the democracy itself. In Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, amidst the growing visible discourses of liberal ideas, pluralistic forces and LGBT rights, we witness an increase in the politics of othering (against certain ethnic, religious, sexual minorities) and the instrumentalisation of ethno-religious issues to mobilise people. In other words, how different groups make use of the democratising space, both online and offline, to claim or to defend their ‘rights’? What are the religious, political and socio-economic reasons behind such politics of inclusion and exclusion in democratising Malaysia and Indonesia? This panel welcomes papers from different disciplinary background to examines the prospects and challenges of democratisation, and examine the roles and impacts of diverse social and political actors in Indonesia and Malaysia since 1998. It focuses on Malaysia and Indonesia, but we also welcome related contributions on other countries in Southeast Asia.