Salafism and the State

Islamic Activism and National Identity in Contemporary Indonesia

Chris Chaplin

  • Published: 2021
  • Pages: 240 pp.
  • 7 illustrations (all B&W), 1 map
  • Series: NIAS Monographs
  • Series number: 155
Available worldwide
ISBN Hardback: 978-87-7694-304-2, £70 (May 2021)
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7694-305-9, £22.50 (November 2021)

About the book

  • First comprehensive ethnographic study of the Salafi Islamic movement in Indonesia.
  • Explores the role of Islamic activism amongst Indonesian youth and how it has transformed the country’s religious and political discourse.
  • Focuses on the nexus between religion, the nation, citizenship and political identity.

Recent studies of Indonesian Islam have pointed to the growing prominence of ‘conservative’ and globally expansive Islamic doctrines. Salafism is one such doctrine, and it has gained increasing popularity in Indonesia over the past several decades. Aiming to propagate a ‘literalist’ interpretation of Islam, Salafi activists argue that many local Islamic traditions, histories and cultures are unIslamic. This has led to significant controversy, and accusations by many Indonesians that Salafism is foreign to country, an intolerant religion, and should have no part in the religious life of the nation.

This book offers an ethnographic study of this often misunderstood and controversial movement. It explains why Salafism is growing in numbers, especially amongst young people, and how Salafi activists promote their faith within the wider public. It explores the range of propagational activities and products Salafis use in their public outreach, including literature, mosque sermons, social media ventures, and even fashion, and describes how these activities are tailored to a young Indonesian audience. Salafis may have global roots, but as this book outlines, its success in Indonesia is best understood as an intrinsically local phenomenon entangled within Indonesian ideas of Islamic praxis, consumerism, modernity, political action and citizenship. Salafi activists do not see themselves as foreign religious agents or detached from Indonesian life, but increasingly as part of a religiously conservative moral vanguard. Salafism is, consequently, part of the broader re-orientation of social, cultural and political life we are seeing in contemporary Indonesia.

About the author

author image not supplied

Chris Chaplin is a political anthropologist who has done extensive research on Islamic activism, social movements, and postcolonial citizenship in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He has published extensively on these topics in international academic journals and scholarly volumes.

Go to author page


by Noorhaidi Hasan, Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
From journal: International Quarterly of Asian Studies
“This book by Chris Chaplin has now arrived to enrich the existing litera¬ture. It offers a comprehensive ethnography of Salafism in Indonesia, or more precisely its dynamics after 9/11.”
by Dr David Kloos
From journal: KITLV - Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
‘Chris Chaplin’s carefully argued and sophisticated analysis of Salafism in Indonesia not only shows its appeal as a mix of social movement and individualizing force; it leverages rich ethnographic detail to reveal Salafism’s internal tensions and paradoxes as a defining trait, a necessary condition for the movement’s growth as it continues to inspire an increasingly conservative and politicized religious landscape. Relevant well beyond the Indonesian context, this book is an important contribution to the study of Islam. It will be widely read.’
by Dr Greg Fealy
From journal: Australian National University
‘Chaplin’s book presents a superb study of Indonesian Salafism. Rich in narrative detail, acutely observed, theoretically engaged and elegantly written, this is a deeply informative work on an increasingly influential movement within Indonesian Islam.’