Islamism is taking hold in parts of Java that used to be bastions of the left
Vedi R. Hadiz
Muslim activists demonstrate in favour of the anti-pornography law, Yogyakarta, 2008.
Few observers of Indonesia have commented on the irony that Densus 88, the special counter-terrorism unit of the Indonesian police force, has been hunting down ‘radical Islamist’ terrorists in many areas of Central Java that a half century ago were solid support bases of the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party). Clearly there is something odd about this. Moreover, the alleged terrorists are frequently depicted as offshoots of groups that can be genealogically traced to the old Darul Islam (Abode of Islam) movement that was military defeated in 1962, and which was a bitter enemy of the communists. However, the Darul Islam had only a negligible presence in the parts of Central Java where the authorities are now looking for terrorists.
I became especially aware of this irony during several forays since 2010 out of Solo into parts of the Central Javanese hinterland that were once communist or at least radical nationalist territory. I recalled that even twenty or so years ago, one did not see the number of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) that have now sprouted along the roads between towns, villages and hamlets in this region. I also remembered that when you visited this area, you rarely witnessed rural women conducting their daily public business