Over the past decade, Indonesia has witnessed the rise of young Arab preachers along with their sermon groups and media in urban areas. Their sermon groups are highly mobile in urban public spaces and have attracted thousands of followers predominantly from Muslim youth. Many of the preachers claim descent from the Prophet and are collectively known as habaib. They fervently promote traditional Islam to the public. Scholars debate the reasons for the growing popularity of habaib preaching. Some argue that it is a product of rising piety and spiritualism while others point to Arabising cultural revivalism in Indonesia. Based on my fieldwork, I found that both doctrinal and marketing aspects are significant in driving their popularity. I argue that the emergence of habaib is connected to their accumulating religious capital borne of their efforts to bolster their authority and profile in a highly competitive market for spiritual products. The habaib have numerous means to elevate their religious standing including strategic use of venues and event management, savvy merchandising and advertising, anti-wahhabi campaigning, and promotion of the Yemen-Indonesia connection. I further argue that the more habaib promote traditional Islam to Indonesian Muslims, the more they enhance their authority, popularity, and thus economic rewards.
About the Speaker:
Syamsul Rijal commenced his PhD study in 2012 in the Department of Political and Social Change (PSC), School of International Political, and Strategic Studies, ANU. He is the recipient of the Endeavour Scholarship Awards from the Australian Government. He has MA in Asian Studies from ANU (2009), MA in Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies from The Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta (2005), and BA in Arabic Literature from The Alauddin State Institute for Islamic Studies in Makassar, Indonesia (2001). Since 2006, he has lived in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, to teach at IAIN Antasari. His academic interest includes Islamic Movements, Media, Islamism, Hadhrami-Arab Diaspora, Religious Commodification, and Piety in Contemporary Indonesia.
Dates and Times: Tue, 14 Jul 2015, 12.30 – 2 pm
Location: PSC Reading Room 4.27 Australian National University
Contact: Allison Ley (+61 2 6125 3097).
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