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Islamic Defenders Front Militia (Front Pembela Islam) and its Impact on Growing Religious Intolerance in Indonesia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2019

Gabriel Facal*
Centre Asie du Sud-Est - Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


The processes of democratisation and liberalisation initiated during the course of the Indonesian Reformasi era (1998-) generated a stronger porosity in the State's frontiers and led to the formation of certain semi-institutionalised organisations. The approaching 2019 presidential elections have enabled these organisations to position themselves as political and moral brokers. The Islamic Defenders Front militia (FPI) appears to be one of the main actors in this process. It has succeeded in imposing itself in the public sphere, channelling political support and utilising extensive media coverage.

While avoiding providing direct opposition to the ruling government and the Constitution, this organisation promotes the social morals followed by a large part of the population and encourages radicalism and violent actions in the name of Islam. The organisation collaborates with a section of the regional and national political elites, some sections of the army and police, several groups that are—more or less—criminal in nature, a number of local communities in different areas, and a variety of violent Islamist groups. Thus, it is at the crossroads of multiple political, economic, social, and religious interests.

At the same time, the organisation's leaders maintain their own political objectives. They manipulate the dynamics of the electoral decentralised system to their advantage by obtaining political concessions that serve their personal goals. The capacity of the organisation to impose its discourse on the public stage has led to an urgent need to interrogate both the institutional and ideological transformations initiated by the Indonesian decentralisation since 1999.

Copyright © Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University 2019

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