Morality Racketeering: Vigilantism and Populist Islamic Militancy in Indonesia

  • Ian Wilson
Part of the IDE-JETRO Series book series (IDE)


Unlike Islamist groups ostensibly concerned with the overturning or radical transformation of the state, or Islamic political parties seeking to wrest power via elections, Islamic vigilante groups in Indonesia such as the Defenders of Islam Front, or Front Pembela Islam (FPI) have pursued a socially conservative ‘anti-vice’ and ‘anti-apostasy’ agenda against the perceived liberal excesses, ‘licentiousness’ and moral corruption of contemporary Indonesian society, which are seen as threatening the cohesiveness and integrity of the wider Islamic community.1 This mission, framed by the Quranic edict of amar makruf nahi mungkar, usually translated as ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’, has been operationalized via violent attacks on ‘dens of iniquity’ (tempat maksiat) and religious minorities, street protests and mobilizations, together with attempts at ‘capturing’ and wresting control of local neighbourhoods from competing predatory and violence-wielding groupṣ2 Organizationally it has developed a nation wide branch system, with the central leadership based in the central Jakarta district of Pertamburan. Street level action has been combined at the local and national leadership levels by alliance building and patronage with political elites, which has enabled them to continue since 1998 with little in the way of sustained legal sanction and with an increasing capacity to exert leverage over local government and the police.3


Political Party Political Elite Gated Community Central Leadership Islamic Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abrahams, R. (1998) Vigilant Citizens: Vigilantism and the State, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  2. Abuza, Z. (2003) Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: Crucible of Terror, Boulder: LynneGoogle Scholar
  3. Reinner. Aditjondro, G. J. (2001) ‘Guns, pamphlets and handy-talkies’, in L. Wessel and G. Wimhofer (eds) Violence in Indonesia, Hamburg: Abera-Verl, pp. 100–28.Google Scholar
  4. Ahram, A. (2011) Proxy Warriors: The Rise and Fall of State-Sponsored Militias, Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Albertazzi, D. and D. McDonnell (2008) Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Antara News ‘FPI mengancam tindak Greenpeace’, 2 August 2011, available at: (accessed 26 December 2013).Google Scholar
  6. Bamualim, Chaider Ṣ (2011) ‘Islamic militancy and resentment against Hadhramis in post-Suharto Indonesia: A case study of Habib Rizieq Syihab and his Islamic Defenders Front’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 31, 2: 267–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barker, J. (2007) ‘Vigilantes and the state’, in Tony Day (ed.), Identifying with Freedom: Indonesia after Suharto, New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 87–94.Google Scholar
  8. Bayat, A. (2007) ‘Radical religion and the habitus of the dispossessed: does Islamic militancy have an urban ecology?’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 31, 3, September: 579–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9., ‘Patung Liberty di Bekasi bertahan delapan jam’, 29 November 2011, available at: (accessed 26 December 2013).
  10. Brown, D. and I. D. Wilson (2007) ‘Ethnicised Gang Violence in Indonesia; where criminals and fanatics meet’, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 13: 367–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bourgois, P. (2002) In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buehler, M (2008) ‘The rise of Shari’a by-laws in Indonesian districts: An indication for changing patterns of power accumulation and political corruption’, South East Asia Research, 16, 2: 255–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cribb, R. (1991) Gangsters and Revolutionaries: The Jakarta People’s Militia and the Indonesian Revolution 1945–1949, Honolulu: University of Hawaii.Google Scholar
  14. Front Pembela Islam (2012) ‘Fatwa FPI tentang kenaikan BBM dan pajak’, available at:–2/ (accessed 24 December 2013).Google Scholar
  15. Habib Muhammad Rizieq Syihab (2011) ‘Liberal lebih Iblis daripada Iblis’, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).Google Scholar
  16. (2008), ‘FPI Surabaya bubarkan diri’, 4 June, available at: (accessed 26 December 2013).
  17. International Crisis Group (2008), ‘Indonesia: Implications of the Ahmadiyah Decree’, Asia Briefing No.78, 7 July.Google Scholar
  18. International Crisis Group (2012) ‘Indonesia: “Christianisation” and intolerance’, Asia Briefing No114, 24 November.Google Scholar
  19. Khan, N. (2011) ‘Between spectacle and banality: Trajectories of Islamic radicalism in a Karachi neighbourhood’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36, 3: 568–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kompas (1999) ‘13 Jam Diduduki FPI Kantor Gubernur DKI Lumpuh’, 14 December.Google Scholar
  21. Kusno, A. (2004) ‘Whither Nationalist urbanism? Public life in Governor Sutiyoso’s Jakarta’, Urban Studies, 41, 12: 2377–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lastania, E. (2012a) ‘Pemuda Muhammadiyah kritik FPI’, Tempo, 12 February, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).
  23. Lastania, E. (2012b) ‘DPR desak pemerintah tegas pada Ormas bermasalah’, Tempo, 18 February, available at: DPR-Desak-Pemerintah-Tegas-pada-Ormas-Bermasalah (accessed 24 December 2013).
  24. Osman, M. N. M. (2010) ‘Reviving the Caliphate in the Nusantara: Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia’s mobilization strategy and its impact in Indonesia’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 22: 601–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Platzdasch, B. (2011) ‘Religious freedom in Indonesia: the case of Ahmadiyah’, ISEAS Working Paper: Politics and Security Series No.2.Google Scholar
  26. Ropi, I. (2007), ‘Regulating worship’, Inside Indonesia, 89: 7–8.Google Scholar
  27. Roy, O. (1996) The Failure of Political Islam, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Saragih, B. BT (2011) ‘Wikileaks: National police funded FPI hard-liners’, The Jakarta Post, 5 September.Google Scholar
  29. Sidel, J. (2006) Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Tampubolon, H. D. (2011) ‘Mass organizations can provide security’, The Jakarta Post, 30 July.Google Scholar
  31. Tajuk (1999) ‘Pesan Buat Para Pembela Islam’, 22 December.Google Scholar
  32. Tempo (1998) ‘Berjihad Mendukung Sidang’ 30 November 1998.Google Scholar
  33. The Jakarta Globe (2011) ‘FPI add voice to threats against Greenpeace’, 3 August.Google Scholar
  34. Turam, B. (2011) ‘Ordinary Muslims: power and space in everyday life’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 43: 144–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Voice of Islam (2012) ‘Dukung FPI, Umat Solo kecam percobaan pembunuhan Ustadz FPI’, 17 February, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).
  36. Voice of Islam (2010) ‘Fatwa MUI tentang pluralisme agama’, 18 January, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).
  37. Voice of Islam (2012) ‘Dukung FPI, Umat Solo kecam percobaan pembunuhan Ustadz FPI’, 17 February 2012, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).
  38. Wilson, I. D. (2008) ‘As long as it’s Halal: Islamic Preman in Jakarta’, in Greg Fealy and Sally White (eds), Expressing Islam: Islamic Life and Politics in Indonesia, Singapore: ISEAS Press, pp. 192–210.Google Scholar
  39. Witular, R. A. and H. D. Tampubolon (2011) ‘Islam Defenders mutating into splinter cells for hire’, The Jakarta Post, 16 July.Google Scholar
  40. Yusron, U. and A. Mandiri (2012) ‘FPI denounces criminal element within organization’, The Jakarta Globe, 2 June, available at: (accessed 24 December 2013).

Copyright information

© IDE-JETRO and Murdoch University 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Wilson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations