Normalising Intolerance: Elections, Religion and Everyday Life in Indonesia


Indonesia was built on the premise of pluralism, as enshrined in the state ideology, Pancasila but tension over the relationship between religion and the state has always been present. Recently, ‘othering’ along primordial lines became a prominent part of political and social discourse. During the 2017 Jakarta elections, the country saw divisive public debates and mobilisation, anchored in the intersection of politics and faith, driven by intolerance and primordialism. Having ignored the issue for decades, most Indonesians were caught off-guard. Why did this happen, and what does it mean for Indonesian democracy? In this paper, Dr Hamid looks at the every-day lives of Indonesians and asks what has allowed religious intolerance to take centre stage?

Dr Sandra Hamid is The Asia Foundation’s country representative to Indonesia. A cultural anthropologist and development specialist with interests in political participation and civil society, Sandra has twenty years’ experience as a journalist, researcher, and development professional. With the Foundation, she has designed and implemented programs in the areas of political participation, knowledge and policy, governance, gender, law, and religious freedom. She also has extensive political experience, having served in one of the first political parties formed immediately after Soeharto’s resignation. A Draper Hills Summer Fellow on Democracy and Development at Stanford University, Sandra is also a former Fulbright Visiting Student grantee. She completed her PhD from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.