Politics of Multiculturalism in an Age of Intolerance: Identity Construction and Political Engagement of Religious Students in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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In the months leading up to the presidential election, Indonesian students are faced with an increasingly polarising climate. Not only has this to do with the election itself, characterised by hoaxes, money politics and disillusionment, but also with a dominant narrative on the contestation of religious diversity, thought to be inherent to the Indonesian nation. This narrative, which developed under incumbent president Joko Widodo s administration, holds that Pancasila, of which the first principle is meant to facilitate religious pluralism, is threatened by the ideology of Khilafah: the aspiration for Indonesia to become an Islamic caliphate. It is in this context that religious identities are politicised; that pro-Pancasila and pro-Khilafah Muslim ideologies are put against each other and that minority religions are problematised. It is also in this context that religious students construct their identity. In this comparative research, we have studied how the construction of Muslim and religious minority students identity affects their political engagement, both in national politics (through voting) and in the campus politics of Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. As will become apparent, the construction of politically and socially relevant identities of these students take place in a complex interplay between both reification and negotiation of the dominant narrative on the politicised religious identity, leading to a highly conflictive form of political engagement among Muslim students, fraught with the tensions between Pancasila and Khilafah organisations, whereas for minority students these tensions rather leads to disengagement. That said, all students find a duty in voting for the presidential election. While polarising too, in this form of political engagement they can find an individualised form that lets them circumvents these tensions, allowing them to privately help change their country for the better.