Islamicization in Lombok

Mar 14th, 2006, in History, by

A scholarly paper looks at the process of Islamicization of the people of northern Lombok.

In From Ancestor Worship to Monotheism Sven Cederroth explains that as late as the mid 1960’s there were large pockets of people in northern Lombok, the Sasak, who had resisted Islamic imperialism and continued to practise pantheistic or animist religion.

He first describes how Islam came to Lombok in two waves. The first, from the early 16th century, was of a “highly syncretistic character, frequently mixing animist and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs and practices with Islam”. The second, from the late 19th century, was more orthodox and intolerant.

In the north of the country, mainly, even into the twentieth century however, the Wetu Telu syncretic mix of faiths continued to thrive. But the attempted communist coup of 1965, and the ensuing purges of communists and a new, exclusive focus on monotheism from the government, saw the centuries old faith of the northern people largely swallowed up by Islam.

In one village Sven Cederroth recounts in detail the pressure that was put on people to join one of the five official religions of Indonesia after Suharto came to power. Many people chose Buddhism but soon learned they had made a serious mistake. In another village it was made clear to people from the beginning that Islam was the only acceptable choice and the people underwent “education” programs, ie forced conversion.

Read the whole piece.


2 Comments on “Islamicization in Lombok”

  1. Bruce B Lawrence says:

    This is a tremendously insightful article, clearly written and with a relish for the oft forgotten ways that programmatic, top down agendas of centralizing agents of the still insecure nation-state are subversively redirected, and often reinvented, by local subjects.

  2. Burung Koel says:

    I actually met Sven many years ago when he was doing his field work. Wektu Telu was still pretty strong in parts of Lombok through the mid 1980s, but increasingly confined to fewer and fewer villages.

    Sven is a lovely guy, with a deep love of Indonesia and the people of Lombok, which I think shows through his academic writing.

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