Indonesian Islamic Communication Studies


film islam kcb

Author: Hoesterey, James B; Clark, Marshall

Publication info: Asian Studies Review 36. 2 (Jun 2012): 207-0_8.

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Popular culture has become an important arena through which Muslims in contemporary Indonesia constitute and contest ideas about Islam, piety and gender. Despite the broad understandings of gender that are now commonplace in the West, scholarship on gender in Indonesia has tended to focus overwhelmingly on the status of women. This article aims to redress this scholarly lacuna by examining, among other things, representations of men and masculinities in recent Indonesian popular culture, primarily focusing on the burgeoning trend of “pop Islam” films, most commonly known as film Islami. We argue that the popularity – and controversy – associated with film Islami is closely related to the increasing Islamisation of Indonesian society and politics and the emergence of new understandings of what Muslim masculinity should and can be in contemporary Indonesia. [PUBLICATION ABSTACT]

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Abstract: Popular culture has become an important arena through which Muslims in contemporary Indonesia constitute and contest ideas about Islam, piety and gender. Despite the broad understandings of gender that are now commonplace in the West, scholarship on gender in Indonesia has tended to focus overwhelmingly on the status of women. This article aims to redress this scholarly lacuna by examining, among other things, representations of men and masculinities in recent Indonesian popular culture, primarily focusing on the burgeoning trend of “pop Islam” films, most commonly known as film Islami. We argue that the popularity – and controversy – associated with film Islami is closely related to the increasing Islamisation of Indonesian society and politics and the emergence of new understandings of what Muslim masculinity should and can be in contemporary Indonesia.

Keywords: Indonesia, Islam, cinema, gender, masculinities, popular culture


Over the last several decades, new media throughout the so-called “Muslim world” have paved the way for new Muslim publics, new articulations of Islam, and new figures of authority.1 Muslim intellectuals, novelists, televangelists, artists, musicians and filmmakers have become pop culture prophets who claim to speak on behalf of both Islam and nation. In the context of Indonesia, Hasan has observed that “[t]he development of an Islamic pop culture has taken place in Indonesia where Islam has become part of an extensive consumer culture and served as much an important identity marker as a sign of social status and political affiliation” (Hasan, 2009, p. 231). Likewise, Heryanto has argued that popular culture can at times be “at the very heart of Indonesian national politics” (2008, p. 34). Yet, what makes pop culture popular? Further still, what exactly makes it political? An overemphasis on the medium itself – whether novels, cassette sermons, television sermons, or Islamic cinema – fails to explain why specific messengers and messages resonate with the ideas and aspirations of many Muslims, yet incite the rancour of others. In this article, we extend Heryanto’s inquiry into the cultural politics of pop culture by turning our attention to the remarkable rise in Islamic cinema in post-authoritarian Indonesia.

Defining what makes art forms particularly “Islamic” is complicated, wrought with assumptions about what constitutes both art and religion (George, 2010). The films of Islamic cinema are known in Indonesian as film religi (religious films), film kearab-araban (“Arabised” films) or film islami (Islamic films). The films of this genre – much like their aesthetic equivalents in calligraphic artworks, religious novels, and music – are said to “breathe Islam” (bernafaskan Islam). The film islami genre is especially remarkable in its capacity to articulate forms of aspirational piety that resonate with the anxieties, desires and frustrations of middle-class Muslims in Indonesia. This is particularly important given the long suppression of Islam and Islamic representations under Suharto’s dictatorship (Paramaditha, 2010). We argue that the popularity of film islami rests in its ability to articulate not what Islam is, but rather what Islam could be and should be. Our analysis is also informed by Göle’s assertion that the Islamic public sphere offers an Islamic critique of modernity, through which “the Islamic subject is formed both through liberation from traditional definitions and roles of Muslim identity and through resistance to a cultural program of modernity and liberalism” (Gole, 2002, p. 187). In regard to film islami, we will explore how the characters, conflicts and lessons are, at once, aesthetic choices, but also theological arguments and political positions.

We are interested in both the film productions themselves – their plots, heroes and antagonists – and how these films circulate in the public sphere, eliciting the praise of some and provoking the condemnation of others. The phenomenon oí film islami involves not just scriptwriters and directors, but also social critics, entrepreneurial producers and consumer devotees. In his study of acclaimed Indonesian calligraphic artist A.D. Pirous, Kenneth George urges scholars to consider Muslim artists and the public sphere as “points of human encounter” in which “[the artist's] works and ideas belong not just to him, but to others as well. They are the places where he is in expressive dialogue with predecessors and peers, with his nation, with ideas about art, and with God” (George, 2010, p. 5). Similarly, film islami provide models of normative piety and Muslim modernity, the meaning of which is not given, but is constituted and contested on the public stage along several fault lines of religious affiliation and political participation. However, the characters and controversies do not always fit neatly into familiar dichotomies of religious and secular, traditionalist and modernist, or Sufi and Salafi.2 Before examining these issues in our discussion of several key examples of the film islami genre, in the following section we explore the social, political and historical contexts in which Indonesians produce, promote and protest film Islami.

Breathing Islam: Pop Culture, Aspirational Piety and Political Publics

The post-New Order boom in “pop Islam” in Indonesia incorporates genres such as sastra !slami (Islamic literature), film Islami (Islamic film) and sinetron Islami (Islamic soap operas). Some of the structural transformations that facilitated the rise of “pop Islam” include the expansion of the Indonesian middle classes in the 1980s, as well as, since the 1990s, Islam’s increased political clout and the privatisation of state media. With a relaxing of controls on freedom of expression in the post- 1998 period, popular culture has been a fertile ground for aesthetic experimentation. Products that “breathe Islam” are increasingly popular among Muslim middle classes eager to explore new forms of religiosity through consumption and public piety (Fealy, 2008; Hasan, 2009; Hoesterey, 2008; Howell, 2008; Jones, 2007; SmithHefner, 2007). In addition to a surge in the popularity of religious commodities such as digital Qur’an, Islamic fashion and cassette sermons, during the 1990s and early 2000s there was also remarkable growth in the Islamic publishing industry, especially in the market segment of Islamic self-help (Watson, 2005; Hoesterey, 2008; Fadjar et al., 2006). In this genre of Islamic self-help, pop preachers and Muslim “trainers” such as Aa Gym, Ary Ginanjar and Jamil Azzaini can charge individuals as much as SUS200 per day for self-help seminars. Although film Islami is not explicitly intended to be part of the Islamic self-help industry, its moral protagonists embody a similar mix of piety, prosperity and everyday ethics to that touted by Muslim trainers and self-help gurus. The popularity ?? film Islami should be understood within the broad context of the commoditisation of products, as listed above, that “breathe Islam”.

Many Indonesians question the sincerity of those who are eager to “cash in” on the market value of Islam. A number of Muslim intellectuals have criticised Islamic pop culture for commercialising Islam. On the other hand, Heryanto points out that many public commentators also acknowledge “the diverse motivations, meanings, and intentions involved in what may appear to be a common pattern of consumerist passion” (Heryanto, 2010a, p. 61). Religion and commercialisation are thus not always at odds. As some producers and practitioners put it, “pop Islam” is about “dakwah-tainment” – a call to the Islamic faith through entertainment. As we will discuss later, there are certainly exceptions to this rule. In the present analysis, however, we are less concerned with the religious convictions of executive producers than with the important ways in which film Islami resonates with both the aspirations and the frustrations of the Muslim middle classes. In relation to this, Heryanto makes a compelling argument that such films are perhaps best understood within the purview of Islamic politics in post-New Order Indonesia, where middleclass Muslims have become disillusioned with the unfulfilled promises of secular nationalism and neo-liberal globalisation (2010a, p. 61). Likewise, many producers of “pop Islam” in Indonesia – from authors and evangelists to fashion designers and filmmakers – echo the reformist sentiments of the global Islamic revival: “Islam is the solution”.

The heroes, villains and moral lessons of film Islami blockbusters provide an important glimpse into the moral and political fault lines of Islam in Indonesia. The Utopian melodramas oí film Islami extol the virtues of public piety. In general, by the end of many of these films, the figure of the “modern” Muslim man – pious, prosperous and compassionate – succeeds in his steadfast search for personal meaning, worldly success and heavenly blessings. Ideal Muslim women are characterised as successful and educated, romantic yet modest – not merely as veiled and docile bodies. The moral protagonists counter dominant western images of Muslim men as inherently violent and Muslim women as necessarily oppressed. Thus, by turning to issues of gender, Muslim filmmakers are trying to counter negative stereotypes of Islam and provide alternatives to secular modernity. We will also examine other Muslim filmmakers whose sobering stories of polygamy, poverty and violence challenge Utopian visions of Islam and gender.

This article follows an impressive body of work by scholars who have provided insightful analyses of how gender categories have shifted with the myriad political and economic transformations in colonial, postcolonial and post-New Order Indonesia (Blackburn, 2004; Boellstorff; 2005; 2007; Brenner, 2007; Budianta, 2000; 2003; Rinaldo, 2010; Robinson, 2008; Robinson and Bessell, 2002; Sears, 1996; van Wichelen, 2009). Despite the broad understandings of gender that are now commonplace in the West, the increasing work on gender among western and Indonesian academics and activists has focused disproportionately on the status of women (Oetomo, 2000; Clark, 2010). A handful of western scholars, however, have helped broaden the understanding of gender in Indonesia by implying that there are many other gendered categories in addition to heterosexual femininity. Boellstorff (2005), for instance, has examined homosexual gay and lesbi (lesbians) in contemporary Indonesia, “transgendered” categories such as band or waria (those persons who regard themselves as belonging to a “male-to-female, transvestite subject-position”) and “female-to-male transgendered persons” (known most often as tomboi or hunter). Oetomo (1996) and Blackwood and Wieringa (1999) have also written on same-sex relations in Indonesia. Others have discussed what have been called “indigenous” homosexualities and transgenderisms, such as the bissu in Bugis culture in southern Sulawesi (Graham, 2006; 2007; Pelras, 1996) and the warok in the Ponorogo region of eastern Java (Wilson, 1999).

Despite the efforts Usted above, scholars of both Indonesia and the West have offered considerably less reflection on heterosexual masculinities, including Muslim masculinities. As Parker (2008, p. 5) observes, “at present we have the rather bizarre situation that we seem to have more explicit and sophisticated work on alternative sexualities than we do on hegemonic heterosexuality”. Elements of this article, in particular those discussing Muslim masculinities in Indonesia, partly redress this scholarly lacuna. In doing so, we also aim to contribute to an emerging literature on Muslim masculinity that goes beyond Orientalist preoccupations with veiled women and violent men (Gaudio, 2009; Kugle, 2010; Ouzgane, 2006).

The Reel Islam: Violence, Piety and Polygamy on the Silver Screen

Muslim masculinity, at least as it is portrayed in “pop Islam” una film Islami, figures prominently in wider public debates about polygamy, domestic violence and gender relations in Indonesia. For this article we selected some of the best known and prototypical films of the genre as well as other contemporary films that write against the Utopian ideals oí film Islami. Certainly those films not included here would raise additional questions, so we offer this article as an invitation to further conversation. Among the best known and prototypical of the genre are Hanung Bramantyo’s 2008 blockbuster film Ayat Ayat Cinta (The Verses of Love), based on Habiburrahman El Shirazy’s novel (2004) and copy-cat films such as Peremption Berkalung Sorban (Woman Wearing a Turban; lit. Woman with a Turban Necklace; Dir. Hanung Bramantyo, 2009) and Ketika Cinta Bertasbih (When Love is Blessed by God; Dir. Chaerul Umam, 2009) and its sequel. Other less popular films related to film telami, often more nuanced but consciously avoiding the exaggerated style of melodrama, include Berbagi Suami (Love for Share; Dir. Nia Dinata, 2006) and 3 Doa 3 Cinta (3 Prayers, 3 Loves; Dir. Nurman Hakim, 2008). In the conclusion we reflect on the future of film telami by briefly considering one of the most recent films to stir controversy over the meaning of Islam, Tanda Tanya (Question Mark; Dir. Hanung Bramantyo, 2011).

The emergence of “pop Islam” and its impact on public debates about gender must be viewed in the light of several decades of cultural, political and economic transformations, especially the rise of the Indonesian middle classes during the 1980s, and, beginning in the 1990s, the privatisation of state media and the increased visibility of pious Muslims among the political and business elite. As Heryanto (2011) observes, since the mid-1980s a growing number of urban-based and welleducated Muslims have occupied high-level positions of economic and political influence. As a result, they have expressed a greater need and capacity to justify and celebrate their newly acquired privileges and to express their identities. Heryanto (2010) argues that, like the new bourgeoisie elsewhere, Indonesia’s newly rich Muslims have a new-found preoccupation with lifestyle issues such as the display of wealth and exuberant consumption. Thus consumerism is not always contrary to religious pursuits. It is also a means through which Indonesians explore, articulate and contest religious, class and gender identities.

Like many non-Muslims, not all Muslims have managed to escape the economic inequalities that have arisen with the rise of Indonesia’s middle classes and the postNew Order transition to democracy. Indeed, for many Muslims the societal upheaval of the last decade or so has been coupled with ongoing economic marginalisation and the resulting feelings of disempowerment and frustration. This frustration has driven some Indonesians to seek solace in Islam. This sentiment has been tapped by staunchly Islamist militia groups such as Laskar Jihad (Jihad Warriors) and Front Pembela Islam (FPI; Islamic Defenders’ Front) as well as the Indonesian branch of the transnational organisation Hizbut Tahrir (Party of Liberation), which seeks to create a global Islamic state (see van Doom-Harder, 2006; Platzdasch, 2009; Ward, 2009). It is not a coincidence that just as increasing numbers of Indonesians espouse secular-liberal ideas of democracy and gender, many hard-line Islamic groups have become increasingly suspicious of feminism and the post-New Order proliferation of women’s groups. A common theme for women’s groups is the call for greater freedom and autonomy, or “self-determination”, in both the domestic and public spheres. However, these increasingly strident calls have been met with a great deal of resistance by Muslim groups in particular. As Platzdasch argues, “conservatives generally view the call for self-determination by women as ‘un-Islamic’, and as a threat to the integrity of the smallest unit and core of Muslim society, the family” (Platzdasch, 2000, p. 336).

Several leitmotifs emerge in the genre of film telami, especially the notion of everyday ethics, the practice of polygamy and the emergence of a “pro-women” strain of Islamic masculinity. Enduring historical debates about polygamy and the position of women re-emerged in public discourse not long after the fall of Suharto in 1998 (Blackburn, 2004; Brenner, 2007). State and Islamic discourses have long worked together in Indonesia. In the post-New Order era, the Islamic emphasis on the sanctity of the family and the valorisation of female domesticity continue to reinforce the New Order’s patriarchal perspective on gender and sexuality (Blackburn, 2004; Blackwood, 2005; Robinson, 2008). Consequently, the deeply conservative line on gender held by many Islamic leaders and publications has led to a resurgence of polygamy as a topic of debate in the public sphere. According to Blackburn, “for some Islamic conservatives, polygamy is something to be proud of, the badge of a devout Muslim” (Blackburn, 2004, p. 134). Most Indonesian women, including many Muslim women who recognise that polygamy is permitted in the Qur’an, strongly disagree with this attitude. On the other hand, some women support it, even if they are deeply unhappy about their own husband taking a second or third wife. As several scholars have observed with respect to women in Islam, feminism is not easily reduced to binary dichotomies of secular or religious, resistance or acquiescence (Ahmed, 1992; Mahmood, 2005; Wadud, 2006).

The simmering post-New Order discourse relating to polygamy and the position of women in Islam bubbled to the surface after several high-profile cases. According to Sonja van Wichelen, commenting on recent pro-polygamy campaigns in Indonesia, “pro-polygamy discourse . . . does not seek less patriarchal or less conservative definitions of Indonesian manhood” (2009, p. 181). Instead, van Wichelen maintains, “discourses of hypermasculinity and (Javanese) paternalism are reaffirmed – albeit enveloped in an Islamic framework” (2009, p. 182). There is some evidence to support this claim. The first case was the launch of the so-called “Polygamy Awards”. Held in May 2003, the awards were organised by the Muslim Journalists’ Forum (MJF) in a conservative backlash against the popularity of the sexy dangdut singer Inul Daratista.3 The lavish awards ceremony was held at a fivestar hotel in Jakarta and awards were handed out to several dozen men who, in the view of the awards committee, “had upheld the high religious and moral standards needed to be a successful polygamist” (Brenner, 2007, p. 28). It should be noted, however, that the awards were gate-crashed by a large number of protesters, estimated by one source to be approximately 850 people, consisting of members of Indonesia’s women’s rights organisations, including some with an Islamic orientation, who were all outraged by the event. The awards were not held again in subsequent years.

The second case, which again highlights the ambiguous attitude of most Indonesians towards polygamy, was the public backlash against the charismatic television preacher Aa Gym (Abdullah Gymnastiar) after he took a second wife in 2006. The Aa Gym case is instructional because he was incredibly popular among middle-class Muslims across the archipelago. The factors underlining his popularity in many ways mirror those underpinning the success of the film Islami genre. Aa Gym, capitalising on the increased consumerist desires and practices of the Muslim middle classes, fused the religious and the corporate by marketing himself as an Islamic self-help guru. His Islamic formula for success, Manajemen Qolbu (Managing the Heart), was among the forerunners in the lucrative industry of Islamic self-help. By 2002, he commanded a multi-million dollar business empire; attracted TV audiences in the millions; welcomed thousands of pilgrims in his pesantren (Islamic boarding school) each weekend; and was regularly preaching to stadium crowds by day and dining with politicians, Muslim leaders and the business elite by night. Then, at the peak of his national fame, Aa Gym took a second wife and a public scandal ensued. As Hoesterey has described (2008, p. 96): “Feeling heartbroken and betrayed, his female followers abandoned him and his polygamous marriage became the subject of national scandal”. Overnight, Aa Gym became a political and corporate liability. He lost his pending television contracts, his business empire started to crumble and his pesantren became a ghost town.

The third case related to public discourses about polygamy was the impressive box-office and critical success of a satirical film depicting polygamy, Nia Dinata’s Berbagi Suami (Love for Share, 2006). Love for Share focuses on the motivations and experiences of three women caught up in polygamous relationships, including Salma (played by Jajang C. Noer), an educated Muslim woman who is forced to cope with her husband marrying two more wives; Siti (played by Shanty), an uneducated village girl with a sex-obsessed husband who brings her to live with his two (later three) wives in the city; and Ming (played by Dominique), an urban Chinese-Indonesian who works as a waitress and, in order to finance her ambition to become an actress, becomes the istri simpanan (secret second wife) of her married boss. The filmmaker, Nia Dinata, professes that she did not intend to convey any moral judgment on the issue of polygamy (Kurnia, 2009). Rather, she just wanted to “communicate with an audience, with people, and give them a slice of life. I don’t want to make propaganda for or against polygamy” (Imanjaya, 2009). When the actor who played Salma, Jajang C. Noer, was interviewed for this article, she explained that for her the role of a wife in a polygamous marriage was “just another acting role”, equally as legitimate as all her other roles.4 The film went on to win several awards at the 2006 Indonesian Film Festival (including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film), the 2006 Bandung Film Forum (Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Director, Best Actress) and Best Movie at the 2006 MTV Indonesia Movie Awards.

In addition to the above examples, we would argue that certain pro-polygamy voices – at least from the Utopian netherworld of film islami – actually valorise an alternative Muslim masculinity that aspires to be loving and gentle, but decidedly not hypermasculine or patriarchal. Ultimately, in post-authoritarian Indonesia issues such as polygamy have become the moral lightning rods around which public debate coalesces. These concerns about public piety are central to the narrative conventions and moral lessons of film Islami. The public reactions to such films – ranging from praise to protest – shed light on how “pop Islam” becomes an arena for public debate and political manoeuvring. To explore this further, we now turn to two of Hanung Bramantyo’s films, The Verses of Love and Woman Wearing a Turban, which reflect these threads of post- 1998 Islamic discourse.

Violence, Piety and Polygamy in Hanung Bramantyo’s Film Islami

The Verses of Love, based on the best-selling novel by El Shirazy, depicts the trials and tribulations of Fahri Abdullah, an Indonesian student living in Cairo. El Shirazy is a young member of the modernist organisation Muhammadiyyah. This is important insofar as the novel and film, as we discuss in detail below, reflect the modernist ideal of returning to the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet (sunna) as the primary and guiding sources for everyday ethics. The film does not, however, address any of the issues that historically have divided traditionalists and modernists, such as adherence to local customs or belief in local spirits and cosmologies. If anything, the film champions a modern, urban sensibility that softens the traditionalist-modernist divide in Indonesia. On the other hand, Woman Wearing a Turban, based on a novel by Abidah El Khalieqy (2001), does not offer the same Utopian view of Islamic ethics. Instead, both the novel and the film address the forms of violence that, at times, are carried out in the name of public piety.

Both films contrast moral protagonists who honour women’s rights with character foils who subjugate them. In doing so, they reflect the dichotomy between hard-line or popular front Islamist masculinities on the one hand and more renovated strains of masculinity on the other (Robinson, 2007). This dichotomy to some extent mirrors the well-worn dichotomy in men’s studies between hegemonic and alternative masculinities (Connell, 1996). In terms of representations of postauthoritarian Muslim masculinities, there is little scholarship on what may constitute either hegemonic or alternative Muslim masculinity. Indeed, many would argue that the conservative popular front strain of Islamic masculinity, which dominates the representations of Islamic masculinity in the media and popular culture of Indonesia and the West alike, is marginal in everyday reality and thus virtually irrelevant. For instance, in a recent report on male violence in India and Indonesia, the authors assert that the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the rise of Islamist groups such as Laskar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiyah “have been spearheaded by men whose projected goal is to defend and enforce an exclusive and male dominated model of Islam” (Nilan et al., 2010). But this is not the whole story, of course. Mass violence has been a significant feature of Indonesia’s colonial and postcolonial history, including wars of resistance against the Japanese and the Dutch, not to mention Muslim rebellions and anti-communist uprisings. Interestingly, this violence, including the post-New Order Islamist violence, is almost never seen as a gendered phenomenon. This could be due to the fact that so little has been written on men and masculinity in Indonesia, and even less on the link between masculinity and violence (Clark, 2010). More importantly, for either the perpetrators or the ringleaders, jihadi acts of violence against those of other faiths are rarely framed or understood in terms of gender. The following discussion, however, will reveal that gender is an important, albeit unmarked, element in Muslim men’s behaviour, or at least cinematic representations of it.

The interplay between masculine identity and civil or domestic violence is complex and problematic, and cultural expression also plays a role not only in reflecting masculine behaviour but also in shaping it. Therefore, it is significant that in a number of the recent Indonesian films imbued with Islamic themes, acts of violence are closely associated with, and often juxtaposed with, religious piety. The acts of violence depicted in Hanung Bramantyo’s The Verses of Love and Woman Wearing a Turban are especially instructive in this regard. The Verses of Love opens with a series of exotic images of desert sands, camels and pyramids, as well as benign depictions of Indonesian student life in Cairo. Soon after these introductory scenes, however, the film proper begins with two confronting scenes of masculine aggression. The first is a scene depicting domestic violence in a Cairo street and the second is a scene set on a train that depicts the antagonism between an Egyptian Muslim man and a pair of western women. We shall analyse each scene separately before making some observations about the film’s broader themes.

The first scene of violence in the film occurs when Fahri (played by Fedi Nuril), a young, handsome Indonesian Muslim man studying theology at the famed Al-Azhar University in Cairo, is walking along a crowded alleyway and witnesses a middleaged man abusing a young woman for falling over. “What sort of a human being are you?” the man asks, when the woman falls to the ground, dropping her shopping basket. He then hits her in the face, calling her a prostitute. Later in the film Fahri witnesses the woman being even more savagely attacked by the same man, her legal guardian. On both occasions, Fahri is deeply troubled and wants to help, despite the fact that he does not want to be seen touching an unmarried woman. We later learn that the young woman’s name is Noura (played by Zaskia Adya Mecca) and, after she is savagely attacked and abandoned in the alleyway outside Fahri’s fiat, neighbours rescue her. Eventually Noura develops an infatuation with Fahri, but he is uninterested in any romantic involvement with her. Her sense of rejection eventually leads her to lodge a false claim of rape, leading to Fahri’s imprisonment. It is in jail that other forms of violence confront Fahri, including abusive treatment at the hands of Egyptian police and jail wardens. And it is when confronted by both domestic and civil violence that Fahri’s pious brand of Muslim masculinity is clearly portrayed as a peaceful alternative to the hard-line masculine aggression represented by Noura’s guardian and the Egyptian authorities, all of whom are also Muslim. This dichotomy between peace-loving, pious, sympathetic Fahri (and his fellow Indonesian-speaking students, friends and teachers), on the one hand, and the misogynist, violent, aggressive Egyptian men, on the other hand, is a recurring leitmotif in The Verses of Love.

The second of the two early incidents of violence is one of the most dramatic scenes of the film. In it an Egyptian man harshly criticises an Egyptian woman who gives up her seat on a packed Cairo train for an elderly female American tourist, a kafir or “infidel”, he says. To the horror of the two American women, the man aggressively launches into a tirade against America and the West, who he argues have waged war on Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Fahri bravely stands up for the American women. He calmly confronts the Egyptian, despite the threat of physical violence, telling the man he is defying the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, who said all foreigners who enter a Muslim country legally should be welcomed with open arms. The Egyptian has trouble controlling his anger, but is eventually swayed by Fahri’s theologically sound arguments.

The scene set in the train, typical of the film’s overall aim to reveal Islam’s more peaceful side, was seen as a symbolic watershed in Indonesian popular and political culture. It was because of scenes such as this that film critics and politicians alike lauded the film in Indonesia. A spokesman for the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for instance, said that the film was a welcome antithesis to Fitna (2008), the anti-Islam short film by far-right Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, which intersperses verses from the Qur’an with media clips and newspaper cuttings showing or describing acts of Islamist violence (‘Indonesia’s Verses of Love’, 2008).s President Yudhoyono even invited foreign ambassadors in Jakarta to a special screening at which he praised the film. Whereas such political pomp and circumstance speaks against negative Orientalist portrayals of Islam, we would also argue that the popularity of the film – especially the train scene – also resonates with Indonesian sentiments about authority and authenticity within the global ummah. The juxtaposition of Fahri and the angry Egyptian man is not just about defending Islam, but also about asserting the religious authority of Indonesian Muslims. Fahri exemplifies a refined Muslim masculinity contrasted with the supposedly uncouth kasar) manners of Arab Muslims. Although neither the author of the novel nor the film director explains this scene in these terms, at a minimum the scene brings to the fore divisions within the global ummah.

Buoyed by the positive response of Indonesia’s officials, Bramantyo says it was his goal to present Islam’s “true face” and to portray Muslims as modern people who practise tolerance, sincerity and honesty: “Muslims don’t just talk about heaven and hell, or about life in the hereafter,” according to the 30-something director, “they can also talk about love” (‘Indonesia’s Verses of Love’, 2008). Love, of course, is another key theme of the film, with Fahri literally fighting off his many female admirers. He eventually marries two women, thus ensuring that much of the discussion relating to the film was about polygamy. But to return to our original point about the association between masculine aggression and piety, the aggressive masculinity represented by the hard-line Egyptian Muslims is countered by the much more sympathetic brand of Muslim masculinity embodied by Fahri and his Indonesian friends.

Throughout The Verses of Love, Fahri is depicted as a model Indonesian citizen, an ideal Muslim “everyman”. There is no doubt he is incredibly pious. He regularly prays, recites the Qur’an, and attends lectures in Islamic theology, and he is comfortable mixing with Islamic scholars, preachers and lecturers. He is diligent in his studies, using Arabic as much as Indonesian and English. He has a small library of Arabic-language texts in his room, as well as posters in Arabic. In terms of social and civic engagement, he is exemplary: he leads a local Indonesian student association, he helps neighbours with their shopping, he is happy to be interviewed by western journalists and, most impressively, he is even prepared to marry a woman, a Coptic Christian no less, to save her from dying of a broken heart. When he is married with two wives, rather than upsetting one of them by sleeping with the other, he decides to sleep on his own, in the lounge room. In terms of fashion, his penchant for wearing T-shirts, jeans, sunglasses and sandals suggests that he is relaxed, casual and easy-going. His Indonesian housemates are similarly casual in style and manner. Like Fahri, who refuses to touch a woman unless she is either his mother or his wife, his friends are quite modest. For example, when Maria (Carissa Putrì), one of Fahri’s admirers, visits the boys’ flat, one of his housemates is terribly embarrassed for wearing shorts and another is aghast when he emerges from his shower wearing nothing but a towel around his waist.

Similar dichotomies between violence-prone hard-line Muslim men and sensitive, pro-women models of Muslim masculinity are evident in other films in the film Islami genre. The domestic violence depicted in Bramantyo’s follow-up film, Woman Wearing a Turban, is unlike that in The Verses of Love, however, as it does not set up Egyptian men as the violent women-hating “bad guys”. Instead, conservative, ruralbased and pesantren-educatea Indonesian men, who wear sarong, sandals and Muslim caps (peci), fill the “bad guy” role. Most importantly, their contempt for women is barely hidden. Although this dichotomy does not fit neatly into traditionalist-modernist divides, it does reflect the sensibilities of decidedly urban middle classes. For example, as a girl, the heroine of the film, Annisa (played by Revalina S. Temat) – defined by her penchant for wearing a turban headscarf, usually worn by men – is told by her brothers that she is not allowed to ride a horse, as she is a girl and thus should be in the kitchen. Her father reacts angrily, and aggressively, when Annisa questions this supposed aspect of Islamic culture. Her male religious teachers at the rural pesantren in East Java are similarly domineering and aggressive, and refuse to consider Annisa’s pro-women “gendered” perspective on Islam.

Later in life, Annisa’s father refuses to allow her to study at university, instead insisting that she enter into a marriage of convenience with Samsudin (played by Reza Rahadian), the son of a kyai (Muslim leader) who heads a neighbouring pesantren. This means that Annisa is forced to abandon her relationship with her childhood sweetheart, Khudori (played by Oka Antara), who has left Java to study theology in Cairo. It soon becomes apparent that Samsudin is lazy, abusive and sexobsessed. In general, he treats Annisa terribly. During their brief marriage, she suffers from domestic abuse and marital rape followed by the indignity of her philandering husband taking a second wife, Kalsum, whom he has made pregnant. Annisa is then forced to witness Kalsum making love with her husband. Later, Kalsum is also raped and abused, despite being pregnant. Eventually, after Khudori returns from Egypt, Annisa’s marriage to Samsudin is annulled and, after fleeing to the nearby city of Yogyakarta, she marries Khudori. Not unlike the character of Fahri in The Verses of Love, Khudori is intelligent, pious, sensitive and patient. Furthermore, due to Annisa’s past traumas, he is willing to consent to sexual abstinence for weeks and months on end. Most importantly, he is supportive of Annisa’s efforts to gain an education and a career. It is also a nice twist, and perhaps not a coincidence, that the actor who plays Khudori – Oka Antara – also plays Fahri’s best friend in The Verses of Love. This link between the two films signals the dominant strain of Muslim masculinity in film Islami – that is, of moral fortitude and pious self-restraint, attitudes engendered through an urban education and a strong commitment to Islam.

Woman Wearing a Turban is quite didactic and Bramantyo garnered some criticism for this, as well as for the fact that he should have chosen a more “progressive” pesantren in which to set his film (Aquadini, 2009). The film as it stands suggests that conservative Islam breeds men who are firm believers that they are superior and a woman’s role is in the kitchen and bedroom, serving her husband and rearing children. Women, who are treated as second-class citizens, seem to have little say in the matter. The gender hegemony, therefore, is clearly laid out. Nonetheless, a prominent Muslim preacher and leader of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council) called for the film to be re-made or banned, or simply boycotted, as it painted an unnecessarily negative picture of conservative Islam.6 In defence of the film, Abidah El Khalieqy, the female author of the novel on which Woman Wearing a Turban was based, claimed that the film, like her novel, was not so much about the link between Islam and patriarchal violence as about the issue of women’s empowerment.7 Evidently, the moral message in this film, as with The Verses of Love, is that with more education, a greater understanding of the teachings of Islam, and sensitivity to the needs of women, progressive Muslim men à la Khudori and Fahri can actively help Indonesian women gain a greater sense of gender empowerment without endangering their Muslim identity.

According to Hellwig, who has analysed the novel version of Woman Wearing a Turban, reactions to the movie “assert that the film is controversial as it challenges patriarchal ideology and particular text interpretations” (Hellwig, 201 1, p. 27). One excellent example is the controversial scene depicting the mass stoning of the female lead, Annisa, and her childhood flame, Khudori. This occurs in the grounds of an East Javanese pesantren after Annisa is caught removing her headscarf in front of Khudori. Annisa’s husband, Samsudin, promptly accuses them of adulterous relations and calls for them both to be stoned. Does this sort of punishment really occur in this day and age, viewers asked? Furthermore, even if it does, why highlight what must be a quantitatively rare, and radical, element of Indonesian Islam?

A commentator on YouTube also critiqued the way in which Annisa’s mother challenges those throwing stones at her daughter with the line that “only those people without sin are allowed to throw stones”.8 This leads the villagers, suitably chastened, to drop their rocks harmlessly on the ground as they retreat from the scene. According to one irate YouTube commentator, these lines are not found in the Qur’an, and are, in fact, from the Christian Bible (Kangegha, 2009). Questions have also been raised in a Tempo magazine review about the scene depicting a mass bookburning at the same pesantren, with novels by leftist author Pramoedya prominent among the offending books (see Aquadini, 2009). Is it the case, the reviewer in the influential Tempo magazine asked, that Pramoedya’s novels were being burned because the once-banned Pramoedya wrote them, or was it because they were classed as leftist literature? Even more importantly, the reviewer asked, in this day and age would an Indonesian pesantren, no matter how radical, really refuse to have a library that included books written by secular authors (Aquadini, 2009)?

In the Indonesian blogosphere, there are many other criticisms of films such as The Verses of Love and Woman Wearing a Turban, primarily related to their uncritical representations of polygamy and domestic violence, which highlight not only questions of religion and its place in contemporary Indonesian society, but also those of gender, social class, politics and nation (Hellwig, 2011). As a genre, many have found these films to be distasteful, as they depict unnecessarily provocative situations such as marital rape, public stoning and book-burnings. As Hellwig observes in relation to the film of Woman Wearing a Turban, “[m]ailing list contributors expressed concern that it might be boycotted, that a fatwa (religious edict) on the film might be issued, and even that the Front Pembela Islam might target cinemas with violent attacks” (Hellwig, 2011, pp. 27-28).

In recent years, Hanung Bramantyo, like so many successful Indonesian artists, has faced a critical backlash. One recurring criticism is that Bramantyo made The Verses of Love – and then Woman Wearing a Turban less than a year later – not as an expression of his own Islamic faith or from a personal impulse to proselytise, but rather to further his secular career as a commercially-successful filmmaker (Sulistiyo, 2008). This is despite the fact that Bramantyo, a Muslim, spent several years studying in & pesantren? Consequently, there have been some serious criticisms of the film Marni genre as a whole, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For example, because most of these films are inspired by fiction written by best-selling sastra pop (pop literature) authors such as El Shirazy, the commercial and sensationalist nature of the cinematic versions of these best-selling novels has irritated some fans (Aquadini, 2009). As demonstrated by the above discussion of Woman Wearing a Turban, in bringing the books to the screen, the sensationalist themes have, if anything, been amplified.

Importantly, the directors, producers, actors and crew involved in each production are, more often than not, emerging from a secular film industry rather than Muslim groups. Indeed, the producers of The Verses of Love, the Indian fatherand-son team of Dhamoo and Manoj Punjabi from MD Pictures, are not Muslims but Hindus. At a press conference preceding the film’s 2008 release in Singapore, Manoj Punjabi justified his involvement by stating, “If you want to put a message and you don’t do an entertaining film, nobody will watch it” (Hadi, 2008). In terms of box-office takings, the Punjabis’ commercial strategy was a huge success. The film cost SUSI. 5 million to make, which is much more than usual for an Indonesian film, considering that the usual range is between US$300,000 and US$600,000 (Hadi, 2008). The film soon made gross revenue of SUS3.5 million, attracting 2.6 million viewers within 2 weeks of its opening, eventually making twice this amount and attracting more than 4 million viewers (Haryadi and Pamungkas, 2008).

Buoyed by the film’s phenomenal success in Indonesia, the Punjabis gave it a run in Singapore and Malaysia, and a dubbed version is in preparation for the massive Indian market. The commercial orientation of The Verses of Love and other films of this genre of Indonesian cinema has been underlined by the fact that Indonesia’s leading filmmakers, including Garin Nugroho and Riri Riza, have been offered “Islamic” film scripts inspired by The Verses of Love}0 This is despite the fact that neither of these directors is known for being particularly “Islamic” in either lifestyle or cinematic orientation (Wyn, 2009). Indeed, several films of the film islami genre, such as Ketika Cinta Bertasbih (When Love is Blessed by God) / and // (Dir. Chaerul Umam, 2008 and 2009) and Dalam Mihrab Cinta (In the Pulpit of Love; Dir. Habiburrahman El Shirazy, 2010), were bankrolled by Sinemart, the film production company owned by the Catholic Chinese businessman, Leo Sutanto. Sinemart has been the key financial backer of a large number of films in popular genres in Indonesia, such as teenage comedies and horror. Sinemart has demonstrated time and again that financial motivations, rather than religious concerns, are its priority. Part of the obvious market value of films such as The Verses of Love and Woman Wearing a Turban is the portrayal of modern ideals of Muslim masculinity. However, as we shall discuss in the next section, films that are less well known (and thus less successful in commercial terms) such as 3 Doa 3 Cinta (3 Prayers, 3 Loves; Dir. Nurman Hakim, 2008) claim to offer a more realistic view of the ambivalences and contradictions of Muslim masculinity.

3 Prayers, 3 Loves: Terrorism and Homosexuality in Islamic Boarding Schools

Nurman Hakim’s film 3 Prayers, 3 Loves (2008) does not project a Utopian version of Islam. Rather, Hakim explores terrorism, homoerotic play and same-sex relations in Islamic boarding schools. Although marketing concerns forced Hakim to change the film’s original title from Pesantren (Islamic Boarding School), as observed in the notes accompanying the DVD release, the film is purportedly about what actually goes on in Islamic schools in Indonesia. Hakim wrote the script in response to the Indonesian government’s decision to fingerprint students at every Islamic boarding school in Indonesia as a counter-terrorism measure following the second bomb blast in Bali in 2005. Although this plan never materialised, the announcement caused widespread resentment among Indonesians, who felt that their government had begun to view Islam as the enemy in the battle against domestic terror. Hakim’s film is thus a story that is very much at the heart of Indonesian national politics, not to mention the global war on terror.

The three loves and three prayers of the title refer to the three main characters: Huda (played by Nicholas Saputra), who longs to find his long-lost mother; Rian (played by Yoga Pratama) who dreams of a life in filmmaking; and Syahid (played by Yoga Bagus Satatagama), who wishes he could afford to pay for the medical treatment necessary to keep his father alive. Hakim notes in his introduction to the DVD that he wanted to show boarding school life as he experienced it, not as projected by government officials. Indeed the fallible humanity of Hakim’s characters stands in sharp relief to the moral protagonists previously described. For example, the trio have a quiet hideout where they smoke cigarettes and peek through a small hole in the wall to spy on women changing clothes next door. At night, they sneak out to attend a travelling carnival featuring the sexy dangdut singer Dona Satelit (played by Dian Sastrowardoyo). During the pre-dawn prayers, one student even falls soundly asleep when he places his forehead on the ground to prostrate himself before God. In another humorous scene, Rian awakes for predawn prayers and notices that his roommates Huda and Syahid both have erections pushing up their sarongs. Rian then takes great joy in flicking Huda’s erection and smashing a pillow over Syahid’s protruding member.

Whereas the homoerotic play in this scene is portrayed more as a youthful prank than homosexuality per se, Hakim’s portrayal of homosexuality in the Islamic school reveals a decidedly hetero-normative and homophobic slant. Early in the film, we see the cook quietly enter a room while two young men are sleeping. The cook rubs his neck and holds his groin while watching one of the young men, Zaki. He then cuddles up next to Zaki, caresses his neck, and tries to put a hand up his sarong, at which point Zaki wakes and pushes his hand away. In a later scene, the cook once again enters the room quietly while the boys are sleeping and lies down beside Zaki, with whom he is infatuated. The rest is left to the imagination of the audience.

Same-sex relations in Islamic boarding schools are something of a public secret in Indonesia. When asked, many people who have lived in an Islamic boarding school will admit that it does indeed occur among males and females alike. Many explain it as a temporary phase of sexual play (main-main) when young effeminate-looking boys (mairit) play the role of the woman, what is referred to as amrot-amrotan. Often a boy might rub his penis between the thighs of another boy (nyempei) rather than engage in actual penetration (O’Hanlon, 2006). Whereas some recollect such encounters as a harmless phase of youth, not all of those forced to play the “woman role” share that perspective.11

In 3 Prayers, 3 Loves, Zaki appears traumatised by the cook’s sexual advances. One day, he sits speechless in Huda’s room. Finally, his friends insist that he tell them what is bothering him. With tears welling in his eyes, he whispers inaudibly to Syahid. The scene cuts to the next meal, when Huda, Rian and Syahid, with anger in their eyes, are waiting in line for food. Syahid throws a plate of rice at the cook and others join in beating the cook until the leader of the Islamic school (kyai) intervenes and demands to know what all the fuss is about. In the following scene, Huda and his friends look on with satisfaction as the cook departs with his belongings, having been expelled from the pesantren.

Although this conflict is a rather minor part of the film, as a moral narrative this vigilante justice against non-normative sexuality seems to support what Tom Boellstorff (2004) refers to as “political homophobia”, in which violence against homosexuals is condoned in the name of either Islamic ethics or Indonesian cultural values. In one sense, the narrative choice of the cook (rather than a pesantren student) as the initiator of same-sex relations is consistent with the director’s aim to provide a corrective to misperceptions about what happens behind the walls of the pesantren – i.e. that same-sex acts actually are not common to the pesantren experience. As an emerging genre, however, film Islami appears to be encouraging a “heterosexist” masculinity (to borrow once again from Boellstorff) that portrays same-sex relations as abnormal and sinful. As Indonesian cinema (Islamic and otherwise) increasingly sets the terms of moral debate in the public sphere, films that deal explicitly with same-sex relations will likely become an important site for both the creation and contestation of alternative Muslim masculinities. Recently, progressive Muslim intellectuals in the West have challenged heteronormative and heterosexist notions of Muslim sexuality and masculinity (see Kugle, 2010). Yet films such as 3 Prayers, 3 Loves still cling to conservative social and theological understandings about homosexuality.


The tales of film Islami are certainly not cinema vérité. Rather, they articulate Muslim life as many believe it should be. The heroes are not ulama whose authority rests on erudite education; rather, they are moral protagonists such as Fahri and Khudori, whose examples of everyday ethics give credence to the notion of Islam as rahmatanlil al amin – that is, a blessing for all humankind. Guided by neither Islamic fundamentalism nor secular modernity, these “good guys” portray new possibilities for Muslim masculinity. The modern Muslim man, these films suggest, must seek success and happiness through piety. “Bad guys” in these films are not villains per se (Heider, 1991), but tragic characters who have strayed from the teachings of Islam.

Muslim masculinity is also cast in terms of the moral guardianship of women and family. The modern Muslim man yearns for a pious wife (or, occasionally, a couple of wives), yet seeks to honour and guide, not to dominate and subjugate. He aspires to an alternative modernity that reconciles masculinity with compassion, piety with prosperity, and knowledge with wisdom. We see this in Fahri’s example of compassion and mercy that causes a Coptic Christian woman to convert to Islam in The Verses of Love and in Khudori’s support for his new wife’s desire to educate herself and forge her own career in Woman Wearing a Turban. These films write against female domination, even as they endorse the belief in men’s obligation to guide women. While some feminists, liberal-secular or otherwise, might point to the implicit power dynamics that underlie any notion of men “guiding” women, the scholarship of Mahmood (2005) suggests that many Muslim women offer alternative explanations of female agency that do not presuppose resistance as the basis of female agency.

Models of Muslim masculinity espoused by film Islami are neither entirely homogenous nor hegemonic. Films such as Woman Wearing a Turban, for example, provide a sobering perspective on controversial issues such as domestic violence, marital rape and polygamy. This is not to say, however, that such films are not “Islamic”. While The Verses of Love might emphasise the Qur’anic passage that permits polygamy, this film also highlights the subsequent verse that states that if a man cannot be just to each wife, it is better to just have one wife. This article has also revealed that Indonesian film Islami allows for depictions of alternative forms of Muslim masculinities, as depicted in other films of this genre such as 3 Prayers, 3 Loves. Although the moral protagonists of that film portray, to some extent, gentle and pro-women versions of masculinity, the film also reflects a decidedly heteronormative and homophobic stance on Muslim sexuality.

In the time since research for this article began, cinema has continued to serve as a catalyst for public debate in Indonesia. Likewise, the work and everyday lives of filmmakers – especially Hanung Bramantyo – continue to be the subject of public scrutiny. For instance, Bramantyo’s most recent film Tanda Tanya (Question Mark, 201 1) explores the sensitive topics of polygamy, pluralism, violence and apostasy. In the film, a Muslim woman whose husband wants to take another wife decides to convert to Catholicism. The director of cultural affairs for the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), KholU Ridwan, blasted the film for straying from Islamic teachings about the oneness of God (tawhid) and publicly chided Bramantyo for confusing “sociological” and “theological” pluralism.12 The national television station SCTV, which was scheduled to broadcast the film nationwide in 201 1, eventually pulled the film at the last minute, following an intimidating visit by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Using a well-worn political strategy, the FPI accused Bramantyo of being a heretic and infidel. As we have noted, such strategies are often more about jockeying for political leverage than reforming public ethics. On the issue of apostasy, several conservative Muslim critics argued that according to Islamic law the woman who converted to Catholicism was an apostate who should be put to death. Bramantyo countered this. In his view, according to the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (hadith), matters of religion are not to be forced upon people.

In a heated interview that circulated widely in the Indonesian blogosphere, a reporter took a personal jab at Bramantyo, who divorced his first wife, with whom he had a young child, in order to marry celebrity actress Zaskia Adya Mecca.13 Had Bramantyo practised polygamy, the reporter insisted, he would not have had to abandon his wife and child in order to marry a beautiful actress. In his defence, Bramantyo quoted the Qur’an and the sayings of the prophet to articulate an alternative model of Muslim masculinity:

I am a man who does not agree with polygamy. In my view, many Muslims already misperceive An-Nisa14 as a legitimation for men to release their sexual passion. However that passage clearly states: “if you FEAR [that you]

CANNOT ACT JUSTLY, then just marry one”… I almost opted for polygamy. In one sense, I felt justified because it is permitted. In another sense I would hurt my wife’s feelings, the feelings of my children, the feelings of my first wife’s family, as well as the people near my wife.

If this latest cinematic furore is any indication, public debates in Indonesia about polygamy, pluralism and the “real” Islam are no closer to being resolved. Looking ahead, it would seem that the glory of Islam in the abstract continues to resonate with middle-class Muslims in Indonesia. The meaning and consequences of Islam in the particular, though, will continue to be constituted and contested by novelists, filmmakers, and pop culture icons with differing visions for how to “breathe Islam” into public culture and daily life.


The authors extend their gratitude to two anonymous referees for Asian Studies Review for their generous engagement and critical reflections. Marshall Clark would like to thank Erna Wati, Badrus Sholeh and Terence Hull for their thoughtful comments and reflections on earlier versions of this article. James B. Hoesterey would like to thank Aryo Danusiri, Yosef Djakababa and Dwi Yuliantoro, and is grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS) for support during the writing and revision of this article.



1. Eickelman and Anderson (2003). See also Eickelman and Piscatori (1996).

2. Sufis focus on the inner, esoteric and mystical dimensions of Islam. In academic literature, Sufis are often contrasted with Salafis, who claim to follow the literalist tradition of the earliest Muslims.

3. Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian music, popular among the lower and middle classes, which has been criticised by many conservative Muslims for being too sexually suggestive. For a more extensive discussion on Inul see Heryanto (2008).

4. Personal communication with Jajang C. Noer, Berkeley, 4 April 2010.

5. Indonesia’s Verses of Love (2008) UlamOnline.Net. Available at http://www.islamonline.net/ servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1203758610541&pagename=Zone-English-News%2FNWELayout, accessed 1 March 2010.

6. Imam besar Istiqlal serukan boikot film Perempuan Berkalung Sorban (2009) Available at http://www.muslimdaily.net/wanita/2750/imam-besar-istiqlal-serukan-boikot-film-perempuanberkalung-sorban, accessed 1 March 2010.

7. Saya cinta kyai dan pesantren (2009) Koran Tempo. Available at http://www.goodreads.com/ topic/show/106649-abidah-el-khalieqy-saya-cinta-kyai-dan-pesantren, accessed 1 March 2010.

8. PeRemPuaN beRKaLuNg sORBaN Eps 5. YouTube. Available at http://www.youtube.com/ watch7v=ktuhmgQeAK4, accessed 1 March 2010.

9. Sutradara film: Hanung Bramantyo. Available at http://www.tamanismailmarzuki.com/tokoh/ hanung.html, accessed 1 December 2010.

10. Personal communication with Garin Nugroho and Riri Riza, Canberra, 25 February 2010.

11. Personal communication with Nancy Smith-Hefner, Lake Forest, 17 November 2010.

12. Tanggapan KH. Kholil Ridwan (Kesesatan Film ‘Tanda Tanya’) (2011) YouTube. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch7v= ljDHmDOW7ds&feature=related, accessed 4 October 2011.

13. Dialog terbuka film ‘Tanda Tanya’ (2011) Dapur Film Community. Available at http:// www.dapurfilm.com/2011/04/dialog-terbuka-film-tanda-tanya/, accessed 4 October 2011.

14. An-Nisa (‘Women’) is the fourth chapter of the Qur’an.



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Emory University


Australian National University


* Correspondence Address: Department of Religion, Emory University, Mailstop 1535/002/1AA, 537 South Kilgo Circle, Callaway S214, Atlanta, GA 30322 USA. Email: jbhoesterey@gmail.com


MARSHALL CLARK is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Professional Practice in Heritage and the Arts at The Australian National University. His research is focused on the culture, heritage and politics of Southeast Asia. His most recent monograph is Maskulinitas: Culture, gender and politics in Indonesia (2010) and he is currently completing a book manuscript on Indonesia’s relationship with Malaysia, to be published with Routledge.

JAMES B. HOESTEREY is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University. His research explores Islam and pop culture, with a particular focus on new media, Muslim self-help gurus, and the cultural politics of religious authority in post-authoritarian Indonesia. His publications have appeared in the journal Indonesia, Oxford encyclopedia of the modern Islamic world, and the volume Expressing Islam: Religious life and politics in Indonesia.

Subject: Islam; Motion pictures; Muslims; Art; Religion; Popular culture; Men; Masculinity

Location: Indonesia

Publication title: Asian Studies Review

Volume: 36

Issue: 2

Pages: 207-0_8

Number of pages: 22

Publication year: 2012

Publication date: Jun 2012

Year: 2012

Publisher: Copyright Agency Limited (Distributor)

Place of publication: Nathan

Country of publication: Australia

Publication subject: History–History of Asia, Asian Studies

ISSN: 10357823

Source type: Scholarly Journals

Language of publication: English

Document type: Feature

Document feature: References

ProQuest document ID: 1024152578

Document URL: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1024152578?accountid=38628

Copyright: Copyright Copyright Agency Limited (Distributor) Jun 2012

Last updated: 2012-09-25

Database: ProQuest Sociology

Categories: Film Dakwah, I'lam, Islam, My Books

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