Incubators for Extremists? Radicalism and Moderation in Indonesia's Islamic Education System

Islamic schools and universities in Indonesia have been accused of producing militant Islamist extremists. The Bali bombers, for example, attended ‘hard-line’ (garis keras) schools and a recent spate of book-bombs targeting champions of Islamic moderation were sent by a student at the State Islamic University. But is this perception actually correct? This paper looks at the struggle between moderate and extremist ideas in Indonesia’s madrasahs and Islamic tertiary institutions and its implications for Australian policy. It asks whether Islamic thought in Southeast Asia is becoming more or less radical; whether education in Islamic societies should be reformed to counter extremist ideas; and if so, how.

Professor Makruf is the author of numerous publications on Islamic education. He obtained his PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University in 2000, after completing a Masters by research there in 1996. His undergraduate degree in Islamic Theology was obtained from the State Islamic Institute in Jakarta in 1990. In addition to two AusAID scholarships, Professor Makruf won a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Boston in 2004. He was selected for an Asian Leaders Fellowship by the Japan Foundation (2008) and has received significant research grants from the Japan Science Research Program (2005-08) and the Japan ASEAN Integrative Fund (2008-11). In 2008, he was a finalist in the Australian Embassy’s ‘Best Australian Alumni’ Awards. In 2013, Professor Makruf was appointed to head Indonesia’s National Islamic Tertiary Education Reform Taskforce. In 2014, he was a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne.