Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Print Islam: Mass Media and Ideological Rivalries Among Indonesian Muslims

Hefner, Robert W.

On December 30, 1996, a few dozen protesters gathered to demonstrate outside the offices of Indonesia’s leading Islamic newspaper, Republika, in the southern suburbs of the capital city of Jakarta.1 The protesters were from a coalition of some eighteen Muslim organizations, all with spiritual ties to the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (Indonesian Counsel for Islamic Predication, or DDII), one of Indonesia’s leading organizations for reformist Islam. On this occasion there was little of the tension characteristic of the group’s earlier protests against the Muslim daily. Some months earlier, on April 17, 1995, the protest had become so heated that newspaper staff feared the demonstrators might ransack the building (a charge that the DDII leaders dismiss as ludicrous).2 This time the demonstrators were careful and orderly, behaving as if they were playing parts in a scripted affair. They carried banners and chanted slogans, and presented Republika officials with letters of protest detailing their objections to the Muslim daily’s coverage. They also carried copies of the articles they viewed as having offended the Muslim community, and photocopies of letters sent earlier in the month by leading reformist personalities (most, again, with cordial ties to the DDII) expressing similar outrage at Republika’s reporting.