Exploring Religious Extremism in Indonesian Islamic Schools

Year: 2017

Author: Brooks, Melanie, Brooks, Jeffrey, Taufiq, Imam, Mutohar, Agus

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Indonesia's 200 million Muslims are not a homogenous group, and differences persist in regard to the role Islam should play in both society and governance. The vast majority of Indonesians identify as Muslims that support a tolerant and democratic society. Yet, since the fall of Suharto in 1998, a rise in Islamization has occurred, most notably with the emergence of Islamic political organisations and an increase in violent terrorist attacks.

There is little research that explores how religious schooling educates for or against extremist thought and behaviour, and no research that explores how Indonesian Islamic schools educate their students for or against radical extremism.

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate the role Indonesian Islamic school principals play in leading schools that educate for or against religious extremism. Guiding the study was a conceptual framework that conceived of education for and against religious extremism as influenced by four constructs: knowledge, scaffolding, processes, and value systems (Davies, 2008). Education that counters extremist thought and behaviour most commonly centres on the teaching of civic values, citizenship, democracy, and tolerance. Yet, imparting these values in schools does not necessarily mean that students have the ability to recognise extremist propaganda. Schools may, through their systems of practice or curricula, unknowingly support or advance extremism through segregation, silencing, authoritarianism, and instructing single truths.

Data for this inquiry is currently being collected at 22 Islamic schools in Semarang, Indonesia and is guided by the research question: How and in what ways do Islamic school leaders' knowledge, scaffolding, processes, and values promote or mitigate extremist thought? Data collection is scheduled to place over 16 weeks and through 66 semi-structured interviews, Ministry of Education documents, and school site observations. Data analysis will use a priori coding procedures grounded in Davies' (2008) framework.

The data collection and analysis is currently ongoing and findings are forthcoming. The study is supported through the Australian Indonesian Centre and will be completed by the end of 2017. This study will provide key insights into the dynamics related to education that fosters religious extremism with the aim developing an Indonesian "Leading against Extremism Framework" that can serve as a model for policy stakeholders in Indonesia along with recommendations for leadership training and education related to how principals can be leaders against religious extremism in their schools and communities.