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Competition for Religious Authority and Islamist Mobilization in Indonesia

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This article seeks to explain variations in the success of Islamist mobilization. It argues that Islamist groups do better where competition for religious authority is intense. These religious “markets” are conducive to Islamist success because they 1) lower the barriers of entry to new religious entrepreneurs, 2) incentivize established leaders to support Islamist mobilization, and 3) push moderate leaders into silence. The article develops this theory by examining sub-regional variations in Islamist mobilization on the Indonesian island of Java. Using newly collected data on Java’s 15,000 Islamic schools, it compares religious institutions across more than 100 regencies in Java. It also uses dozens of field interviews with Indonesian Islamists and Muslim leaders to show where market structures have facilitated the growth of Islamist groups.

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Keywords: Indonesia; Islamist mobilization; moderation; political Islam; radicalism

Appeared or available online: September 16, 2020

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