Emotive Politics: Islamic Organizations and Religious Mobilization in Indonesia.

AuthorNastiti, Aulia

Islam appears to be on the rise in Indonesian politics. From local to national elections, more and more candidates--regardless of party affiliation--increasingly invoke Islamic attributes, demonstrate piety and reach out to religious leaders. Politicians mobilize along religious identity to appeal to Muslim voters. For many observers, the defeat of the incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election epitomized this phenomena. (1) Prior to the election, a series of religious mass rallies occurred in which protesters demanded that Ahok, a ChineseIndonesian Christian, be arrested and put on trial for blasphemy. Parallel to these protests, preachers delivered sermons in mosques and in social media informing people that it was sinful to elect non-Muslim leaders. Outside the electoral sphere, policy-making is also imbued with an Islamic agenda. At the local level, shariainspired regulations are increasingly being enacted (2) and appear to meet with popular approval. (3) At the national level, legislative bills with a conservative tone are gaining support from members of parliament across the political spectrum. (4)

Why are Islamic narratives increasingly prevalent in Indonesian politics? Extant accounts of Muslim democracies, especially those in the Middle East, usually cite the electoral success of Islamist parties as a causal factor. (5) Multiparty competition allows Islamist movements to be institutionalized as Islamist parties that appeal to Muslim voters. However, this explanation is at odds with the case of Indonesia, as votes for Islamist parties have been declining over the past few years. To explain this puzzle, this article seeks answers beyond formal institutions of the state and argues that the key agent is Islamic mass organizations (ormas Islam) which have become influential power brokers in democratic Indonesia. The influence of Islamic organizations as the key mobilizer is highly relevant when political outcomes are largely determined by participatory forces such as local elections (especially for the executive branch) and sharia-influenced policies. This article defines Islamic organizations as interest groups that declare Islam as their ideological platform. While this article focuses on formal organizations, it also recognizes that they also build informal social networks.

Islamist organizations matter because they have at least three advantages compared to other political actors: moral authority, organizational capacity and political patronage. First, Islamist groups are endowed with the moral authority that comes through their use of theological doctrine; they stimulate reasoning that frames Islam as both an identity and a political ideology, with the two aspects intimately connected. It is through the reproduction of Muslims' quotidian experiences that an Islamic creed infuses piety with political meaning. Second, compared to Islamist parties, major Islamic organizations are more successful in penetrating society. They have organizational capacity at the grassroots level, derived from decades of social outreach in "non-political" settings during the New Order era (1966-98). Third, these moral and social bases provide them with access to a network of political patronage. Their linkages with elites provide Islamist groups with access to state power, through both formal and informal institutions, while simultaneously retaining popular influence.

How do Islamic organizations mobilize people? This article highlights the crucial yet overlooked mechanism of emotive appeals --defined as a strategy to win political support by eliciting emotional responses from the intended recipients. (6) Islamic groups, by claiming authoritative knowledge of religion, exploit emotional aspects of piety to define the rights and the wrongs of political choices, such as "it is sinful to elect a non-Muslim as leader" or "we are afraid that LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people and adultery destroy public morality". Such impassioned narratives are influential in managing and maintaining public sentiment and popular attitudes, especially when they are diffused in everyday life and portrayed as religious practices. Emotive appeals are especially effective at creating a shared feeling that cuts across social class and urban-rural divides.

Our claim is not that Islamist organizations are the only political actor worthy of attention, or that emotion is the only means of mobilization. It is simply to fill the lacuna in existing studies on political Islam in Indonesia. Previous studies--many of which stress the role of state elites and rely on material interest and social identity factors--have treated emotion only in passing, despite the apparent presence of religious sentiments. Research on Islamic organizations has mainly explored the provision of social services and party linkages as primary mechanisms through which major Islamic organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah gain political influence. (7) Through the lens of affect theory--which investigates how emotion, desire and aspiration influence behaviours--we offer a novel interpretation to explain why groups such as Front Pembela Islam (Islam Defenders Front, FPI)--which has limited social provision and party linkages --has increasingly built its power base. In doing so, this article contributes to a fuller understanding of political Islam in Indonesia.

This article establishes its argument by using two case studies: first. Islamist mobilization against Ahok in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election; and second, the implementation of sharia-based regulations. These case studies are illustrative for demonstrating the power bases of Islamist organizations and the use of emotions to maintain and expand their influence. Before moving to the empirical analysis, we situate our research in the existing debate of political Islam in Indonesia and discuss our own theoretical approach.

Islamic Mobilization in Indonesia: The Existing Debate

Since Indonesia began the process of democratization in 1998, Islam has become more salient politically, and religious piety has become more publicly visible. (8) Yet, this increased piety does not seem to have translated into electoral gains for political parties with Islamic platforms. (9) A scholarly debate has emerged to explain this paradox. The first camp offers an interpretation that Indonesia is largely a secular democracy. (10) In this view, Indonesian voters are deemed "rational", in the sense that they vote based on leadership figures and party programmes rather than religion. As a result. Islamist political parties have never been able to outperform their secularnationalist counterparts in elections. (11) In contrast, the second camp argues that Islam is an influential force in Indonesian politics. This view offers a reverse interpretation: the so-called secular parties have shifted their policies to accommodate the Islamist agenda. The absence of explicit religious influence on voters is plausibly due to the lack of substantive differentiation among parties and candidates, since secular politicians increasingly utilize Islamist narratives.

This article supports the second interpretation by asserting that religiosity matters in the political arena, and that it is not necessarily defined by a party's support. Religious influence is highly relevant in areas where political outcomes are determined by societal demands, such as executive election or policy making. Data from the exit poll of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election show that a religious rationale was apparent for voters across all levels of income and education. (13) Furthermore, research on the 2010 Medan mayoral election indicates that when it comes to mobilizing votes, religion matters more than ethnicity. (14) Recent surveys also suggest growing support for the implementation of sharia-based regulations. (15) In short, this article suggests that religiosity at the societal level influences political actions. To explain why and how, it looks beyond political parties and posits that Islamic organizations play the role of a key political mobilizer. Emphasis on Islamic organizations is not new. Research usually points to two factors that make Islamic organizations relevant in mobilizing political support: the provision of social services and institutional linkages with parties as institutions. Jacqueline Hicks, for example, argues that the social programmes of NU and Muhammadiyah helped build the voter base for the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN). (16) Kikue Hamayotsu describes tarbiyah (education) organizations of urban intellectual youths at large universities as an extension of the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS). (17) Yet these lines of argument do not adequately explain the anti-Ahok rallies or the mobilizations to impose sharia-based regulations, both of which were mainly led by organizations such as FPI which provides limited social services and has few institutional connections with political parties. Moreover, the existing research cannot explain why these political mobilizations seem to acquire popular support across social classes and party identities. To fill this gap, our explanation turns to the role of emotion in politics.

Framework: Impassioned Religion in Political Mobilization

Our theoretical standpoint derives from a fusion of theories involving political patronage which has found a home in political science, and affect theory that has informed many anthropological studies. Affect theory lends an ethnographic lens to the study of power relations (18) and offers a new political terrain that includes emotion, desire and aspiration as powerful forces that "move people, forces that attract, repel and provoke". (19) The combination of political patronage and affect reflects our treatment of the interplay between material and...

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