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Diversity Under Threat? Wahdah Islamiyah’s concept of National Belonging and the promotion of an Indonesian Salafi Identity

This paper explores how Salafi Islamic intellectuals linked to the Sulawesi based Wahdah Islamiyah have come to understand ideas of national identity, diversity and citizenship in contemporary Indonesia. Salafi’s are frequently denounced as foreign to ‘Indonesian’ norms, instead promoting a conservative brand of Islam that is incompatible with the nation’s social diversity. Yet, as my research shows, Salafi intellectuals are very much engaged with national concerns – even working with government offices on issues of welfare, development and (de)radicalisation. Based on fieldwork, I thus describe how Wahdah Islamiyah, an organisation that has come to include over 120 branches and 170 schools across Indonesia, has evolved from a small secluded group into an organisation very much involved in debates concerning modernity and national identity. Far from being part of a ‘global’ Salafi religious disposition, its activism is thus representative of broader transformation amongst a segment of Salafi intellectuals, who increasingly stress the need to regulate public and private behaviour not just on religious grounds, but as a mode through which Indonesia’s unity and stability is grounded.

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