FPI (Islamic Defenders' Front): the Making of a Violent Islamist Movement in the New Democracy of Indonesia
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The current study is aimed at investigating the puzzle of why FPI (Islamic Defenders' Front) has chosen to adopt violent strategies within the democratic context of Indonesia. Much of literature on social movements suggests that democracy is inherently nonviolent because it allows social movements to use a number of reasonable tactics to pursue their goals. On the contrary, authoritarianism is considered to be the cause of the emergence of violent movements. However, a violent movement is not necessarily absent in the context of democracy. Using the language of Islam, justice and democracy, FPI (Islamic Defender's Front) conspicuously committed at least 64 cases of violent collective actions from 1998 to 2010. Three levels of analysis are used in order to investigate this social puzzle, namely the level of organization, individual characters and FPI's violent actions. Combining these three levels of analysis, this study found that the making of the violent Islamist movement (FPI) is complex and interconnected. First, there are at least four social environments that have led FPI to the adoption of violent means. They are the historical context of Islamist movements in Indonesia (1945-1998), the timing of violence by FPI, social support for FPI's violent actions and low state capacity. Second, there are at least four factors that relate to individuals and organization of FPI. They are FPI's encounter with so-called justified violence, FPI's engagement in violence-prone activities, fundamentalism and FPI's framing of its violent actions. Combining these factors has made FPI's violence become more persistent in the new democratic context of Indonesia. Consequently, despite the fact that democracy inhibits political violence, democracy may also allow the use of violent means by social movements. In doing so, democracy opens an opportunity for people, especially elites, to support the cause of violence. Therefore, this can undermine the government's will to fully suppress the violent movement. In addition, there are other significant factors, other than state repression, that also facilitate violence, such as a movement's choice to engage in violence-prone activities, low state capacity, a good timing of violence (cultural resources) and a good framing of violence.
Munajat (2012). FPI (Islamic Defenders' Front): the Making of a Violent Islamist Movement in the New Democracy of Indonesia. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from