Youth Political & Religious Affiliation

Feb 6th, 2006, in Society, by

A study of youth political & religious affiliation.

The Friendster website, where young people post their profiles and make friends with like-minded people, is particularly popular with Indonesians, especially university students and young white collar workers. It is a good place, if you search around, to gauge the mind of young people in Indonesia and see where things might be heading in the country.

Friendster Member
Friendster member who gives her affiliation as “sekarang ISLAM,,,besok ISLAM,,,,dan selamanya akan tetap ISLAM” (now Islam, tomorrow Islam, forever it will be Islam).

One of the ways that Friendster allows you to search for potential chums is by affiliation, where you can see what social, sporting, political, and religious associations the Friendster members claim to belong to or support. Restricting our search to country=Indonesia we can input the names of well-known political and religious groups, whether the main bodies or their youth or womens’ wings, and judge the relative strength of each group among young, tech-savvy, educated, middle-class Indonesians, the men and women who will likely shape the future, by seeing how many matches each search results in.

Friendster Member
This young lass lists her only affiliation as “Kill all the Jew”.

Moderate Muslim Affiliation

First we’ll look at those who claim affiliation with the large, mainstream, “moderate”, Muslim social and political organisations, those groups and parties which have formally secular platforms and make some attempts to reach out to non-Muslim voters. All search counts are approximate.

Nahdlatul Ulama/PKB

The NU is the largest Muslim social group, with about 40 million members and is rural, Java based. Its youth group is Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, GP Ansor. Ansor has a para-military wing called Banser. The party most closely associated with the NU is Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa, PKB, the National Awakening Party, which won 10% of the vote in the 2004 elections.

  • Search term “NU” brings up 150 matches
  • “Nahdlatul Ulama”, 56 matches
  • “Ansor”, 20 matches
  • “Banser”, 10 matches
  • “PKB”, 50 matches
  • “Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa”, 50 matches


Muhammadiyah is a modernist/Arabist, fairly strict but relatively moderate Muslim social group. It’s male youth wing is called Pemuda Muhammadiyah (Muhammadiyah Youth). Another youth group, open to both sexes, is called Ikatan Remaja Muhammadiyah (Muhammadiyah Teenagers’ Association). It’s students group is called Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah. The political party most closely associated with Muhammadiyah is the Partai Amanat Nasional, PAN, the National Mandate Party, which won 6% of the vote in the 2004 elections.

  • “Muhammadiyah”, 352 results, although some of these refer to simply being a student at a Muhammadiyah university.
  • “Pemuda Muhammadiyah”, 25 matches
  • “Ikatan Remaja Muhammadiyah”, 50 matches
  • “Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah”, 70 matches
  • “PAN”, 150 matches
  • “Partai Amanat Nasional”, 40 matches

Secular Affiliation


Golkar, Partai Golongan Karya, is the former ruling party of Suharto and is a broad church party with secular and religious components, united in the pursuit of power and not much else. It could just as well have been placed in the “moderate” Muslim section above. It’s main support bases are off-Java and it won 21.5% in the 2004 elections. It’s youth wing is Angkatan Muda Partai Golkar, APMG.

  • “Golkar”, 160 matches
  • “Golongan Karya”, 10 matches
  • “APMG”, 30 matches


PDI-P, Partai Demokrat Indonesia Perjuangan is a secular nationalist party with large Christian and Chinese support. 18.5% in 2004 elections.

  • “PDI”, 110 matches


PD, Partai Demokrat, is a party that was formed largely to get the current president of Indonesia elected. It won 7.5% in the 2004 elections.

  • not possible to search accurately, too many false matches

Islamist Affiliation

Those parties which seek the imposition of Islamic law.


PPP, Partai Persatuan dan Pembangunan also has a strong association with NU but is more of an old-guard conservative Islamist party. 8% in 2004 elections.

  • “PPP”, 40 matches

Friendster Member
Icha, a PKS supporter, votes for the headscarf.


Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, PKS, is a radical Islamist party that won 7% of the vote in the 2004 election. The English translation is Prosperity and Justice Party, or Prosperous Justice Party, or Welfare and Justice Party. KAMMI, Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia, Indonesian Muslim Students’ Action Union, is its youth movement.

A picture of a PKS rally posted by a Friendster member
A picture of a PKS rally posted by a Friendster member.

  • “Partai Keadilan Sejahtera”, 240 matches
  • “PK Sejahtera”, 130 matches
  • “PKS”, 700 matches
  • “Justice Party”, 60 matches
  • “KAMMI”, 450 matches
  • Next we’ll look at hardline, non-party, Muslim associations, the wilder edge of Islamic politics in Indonesia, the militant groups.

    Front Pembela Islam

    The Front Pembela Islam, FPI, Islamic Defenders Front are a band of young men who attempt to enforce aspects of Islamic law by shows of force and intimidation on the streets.

  • “Front Pembela Islam”, 30 matches
  • “FPI”, 50 matches
  • Miscellaneous
    Number of affiliations that contain these words:

    • “Islam” – over 1000
    • “Islamic” – 540
    • “Muslim” – over 1000
    • “Moslem” – over 1000
    • “muslimah” (female Muslim) – 80
    • “muslimin” (male Muslim) – 50
    • “masjid” (mosque) – 600, “mesjid” – 280
    • “allah” – 500
    • “jihad” – 70
    • “dakwah” – 100
    • “berani mati” (willing to die) – 170
    • “Ikhwanul Muslimin” (a jihadist group) – 20
    • “Hizb ut Tahrir” (international Islamist political organisation) – 80

    Friendster Member
    Friendster member who says he is looking to pal up with all sorts of people but “not for Jews”.


    Clearly the PKS, despite the fact that it won only 7% of the vote in the 2004 elections, has the biggest avowed level of support among the legions of Indonesian Friendster users. PKS seems also to have considerable support especially among women and, geographically, is strongest in Jakarta and it’s grubby satellite cities.

    The more traditional and moderate Muslim groups fall far behind the PKS in the Friendster numbers game. This, needless to say, and considering that the sort of people who join Friendster are students and the educated, bodes ill for the future of a secular, pluralistic Indonesia.

    12 Comments on “Youth Political & Religious Affiliation”

    1. Felis says:

      This young lass lists her only affiliation as “Kill all the Jew”.

      Bloody incredible.
      And how many Jews do you think this sweet, pretty lass knows?

    2. David says:

      The Indonesian attitude to Jews, I can’t work it out. I don’t know if it’s coming from the mosques, religious schools, tabloid papers, or what, but it’s nasty. Having said that I can’t help but feel that it’s not quite real sometimes, kind of an ignorant reflex, I doubt that it goes too deep with many and may be an affliction of shallow people, of which there are many here like that young lassy above.

      The first time I noticed it was going past a US diplomatic mission once and there was group of Muslimahs all done out in their garb and they were holding signs in English about Jews, the most bloodthirsty stuff you’ve seen. Bizarre.

    3. Fabian says:

      Top research.

    4. Artman says:

      crazy Muslim, they are all become crazy… is it directed by Muhammad? or just a bunch of crazy Indonesians, I think Islam is not suitable for Indonesian… just back to the original… Hinduism better… and why alway Jew and American? why not other? wait… before was Chinese…

    5. The Jew thing, I don’t know… It’s indoctrination, no mistake, but about how did people get to take it seriously, beats me. If I were to blame something, I’d blame all these misinformation that scatters around the rightist mosques.

      But really, I seriously thing many of those antisemitic teens are but showing off. They don’t really mean it, I guess…

      But wait, wouldn’t it render the issue even more horrifying? They think racism is trendy!

    6. KSJ says:

      If only Indonesian muslims knew how Arab muslims treat Indonesians living and working in Arab muslim countries…. .

    7. Omar says:

      Unfortunately, as an Arab I can not but agree with KSJ, Arabs are corrupt and racist, religiosity is a front for many of them while they indulge in all aspects of lavish life, they only propagate a backward version of Islam to maintain a grip over the muslim world. Surely this is a generalization one has to make exceptions like Edward Said, who is an Arab Christian but the best to reflect on western prejudice and stigmas towards Muslims and Orientals.

    8. Hanguk Museurrim says:

      It’s not a surprise at all that many young Indonesian Muslims cited in this research have such a great animosity towards Jews considering the horrible things that the zionists have done to Palestinians for the past century or so. All they can see is that all Jews are gulity of this genocidal crime.

      Aside from that, let me remind you all that Islam never teaches its followers to hate people of other faiths for what they are.
      Prophet Muhammad set examples for Muslims to treat all mankind with honor and mercy. In a well-known tradition, it is narrated that the prophet used to feed a blind Jewish beggar without the beggar’s awareness of who had fed him everyday.
      Even more, when the prophet died he still owed some money to a Jew. He could have borrowed, or simply asked, from one of his wealthy companions if he so wished. But he wanted to send his followers a message of tolerance and mercy that it is all right to maintain a fair relationship with people of other faiths.

      Lastly, let me remind my Muslim brothers and sisters with the following quote from the Holy Quran:
      “… and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.” (5:8)

    9. Sook says:

      Indonesian Muslims can get out of “trendy” (to use a quote from above) anti-Semitism if globalization creeps in, provided it comes slowly and with respect for the prevailing cultures, and bolstered by the secular spirit. Muslim radicalism is unnatural for us anyway – the Arabs imported it. Hindu, Muslim, and Christian regions argued and fought, but not this way, and not with these polemics.

      I think this is because Indonesia’s a young country with a complicated past. What do Bataks in Sumatra, Javanese Muslims, and Papuans have in common? Almost nothing. Indonesian national identity and culture is younger than my grandparents, and people are still arguing about what it means to be “Indonesian,” even here in the United States Do you have to be pureblood Pribumi, ultraconservative, or Muslim? People who subscribe to that kind of interpretation are winning the argument right now, and they have since 1965.

      There’s been a historical lack of genuine secular opposition in a lot of countries in Southeast Asia and the Arab world. You either have repressive governments (Suharto, Arafat, the Saudi monarchy, Nasser) and the only way people can show opposition is in the churches, masjids, and religious charities (Hamas, Muslim Brothers, Talibs) That’s tragic, and secularists have lost ground over the last few decades while possible idea men and leaders have languished, like Pramoedya; or died, like Aidit. (Again, not to say that I agree with them – they just provided a different voice to the Indonesian conversation besides the army, the establishment, and Muslim parties)

      I have faith that Indonesia can turn a corner, with help from its people and the diaspora.

    10. agak sotoy says:

      I have many friends who are KAMMI/PKS cadres, and they are mostly decent, well-meaning people. But I’ll have to agree that they are pretty misinformed, and their anti-Semitism is grotesque. It’s one thing to disagree with, or even protest against Israeli occupation of Palestine, but it’s another thing to believe that there is a Jewish cabal that controls the world and aims to enslave all Gentiles. ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ is quite a popular book in campuses, and is distributed and discussed freely (and yet, due to peer pressure and groupthink, no one dares to challenge the book).

      Furthermore, because most Indonesians never actually meet a Jew, they sort of caricaturize them by projecting all the vices and corruptions to them. They also tend to conflate Jews (a race) with Judaism (a religion) and Zionism (a political ideology). And since Indonesians are still by and large prone to racist stereotyping, they tend to make Jews into corrupt, cynical creatures (not quite Untermensch, but still…). There was even a public furore when a big pop star (Ahmad Dhani) was revealed to have some Jewish ancestry, with people going… “Oh, no wonder he’s so successful/arrogant/treats his wife badly, he’s a Jew…”

      So the problem is not just Islam, but mainly plain ignorance.

      Now, returning to the larger issue. Indonesian electorate, as it ages, will definitely shift to the Islamist side. By how much, we don’t know. Internet use have grown rapidly in the past 2-3 years, but there are still many areas where people are not online. PKS and its affiliates have definitely conquered the campuses and the middle classes in the big cities, but the battle is yet to be won in the other demographics (remember Indonesia is still 60% rural).

      PKS’ rise has been helped by the utter disarray of its two potential rivals, NU and Muhammadiyah. NU, in Gus Dur, has a ‘radical’ leader that publicly proclaims his support of secularism and -when he was president- tried to establish diplomatic contact with Israel. Needless to say, he’s very polarizing even within NU. Muhammadiyah is torn between its secularist and fundamentalist wings and just plain disappears from public consciousness. As a result, when a young Muslim student grow up, looking at the world seemingly at war with Islam, looking at the politicians’ corruption, and trying to establish a pious Muslim political identity, there’s only one credible choice: PKS.

      But the scarier part involves the fringe groups, two of them you have mentioned (FPI and Hizbut-Tahrir). Now PKS has a decidedly intellectual, technocratic, cautious outlook, possibly as a result of growing in campus environment. They readily discuss, and even compromise over Sharia-related legislations (such as the pornography laws) with other parties. One can hope that, should they govern the nation, they turned out to be like the AK Party of Turkey and upheld Indonesia’s (basically secular) constitution.

      But the FPI, MMI, Laskar Jihad, and don’t forget the underground-but-still-alive Negara Islam Indonesia (NII) will be a bigger threat, at least in the short-term. These groups support religious violence, and have larger mass appeal to poor, less-educated, or unemployed youths, of which our country has plenty. FPI has become a public nuisance with their vigilante attacks, and although its leader (Habib Rizieq) was brought to court several times, has never been punished sufficiently. What this shows to other people is that when you evoke the name of Allah, there is a ‘cloak of invincibility’ so that you can act with impunity. Today, even the Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR), basically a bunch of thugs and extortionists, have become very vocal about the closure of Ahmadiyah (a non-mainstream Islamic sect), as if trying to adopt the Islamic banner for itself. If our justice system do not deal with these bullies effectively, then our freedom and rule of law will be a sham, even when the constitution is never changed.

    11. Stupid Bule says:

      This young lass lists her only affiliation as “Kill all the Jew”.

      Here’s a perfectly good reason why brothers and sisters shouldn’t get married…

    12. Masmulyadi says:

      We’re sorry, clarification: Muhammadiyah not a political party. Muhammadiyah has nothing to do with the PAN (National Mandate Party). Thanks. Masmulyadi, activist of Muhammadiyah – Yogyakarta

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