Mr Ahmad Fuad Fanani



Ahmad Fuad Fanani

The Rise and Decline of Progressive Muslims within Muhammadiyah, 1995-2020

Ahmad Fuad Fanani is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change  at  the Australian National University (ANU) under an Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS). Before commencing his PhD, Fuad was a researcher at the MAARIF Institute for Culture and Humanity and a lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (FISIP) of the Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Jakarta. He graduated from the School of International Studies, Flinders University, Australia, and completed his undergraduate studies in Islamic Studies at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta. His research interests are religion and comparative politics, global political Islam, Islamic political thought, religious movements in Southeast Asia, and Indonesian politics.

The Rise and Decline of Progressive Muslims within Muhammadiyah, 1995-2020

Indonesian Islam is often lauded for what is seen as its moderate and progressive character. Much of the voluminous literature on this subject focuses on civil society organisations which have long traditions of progressivism, such as Nahdlatul Ulama and its many NGO affiliates. But these are not the only source of progressive Muslim thought. The starting point of my research is that some predominantly conservative organisations have also produced progressive thinkers who have had a significant but often under-recognised influence on Indonesian Islam. The emergence of religious liberalism from within a conservative milieu, though neglected by scholars, raises interesting questions about the origins of this counter-stream. In my study, I focus on Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation and a bastion of conservativism. I explore how progressive scholars and activists rose to prominence in Muhammadiyah from the mid-1990s and influenced public discourses and attitudes regarding such issues as democratisation, religious pluralism, women’s rights and gender equality, and social justice. I argue that several factors account for Muhammadiyah’s progressivism: the Iranian Revolution and global dispersion of new Islamic thinking; domestic political conditions; demographic and educational patterns; rivalry with other Islamic organisations; and the conduciveness of Islamic modernist doctrine to producing liberal ideas.