New Emissary

Muslim Pop Culture

Ten years into democracy, Indonesia is now home to a booming new pop culture.

Voice of America reported earlier this month that Indonesia, now a decade into democracy, has a new type of booming contemporary culture—one that may come as a new concept to many of us.

The South Asian country remains the country with the largest Muslim population globally. And according to VOA, it’s this, combined with the new system of government—which allows the people to more freely study and express their religion—that has fuelled a ‘Muslim pop culture’ phenomenon.

The article cites the recent Islamic Book Fair as an example of this rising culture. This year’s annual event, held in Jakarta last month, featured 280 booths and attracted approximately half a million visitors. Highlighting the mainstream and contemporary aspects of the fair, the account includes mention of swarms of girls in white veils arriving on buses, battling to ‘get the good deals.’ One teen, it is noted, makes a play for a book titled ‘How to Look Cool With a Veil.’

It has been largely reported that with strict censorship and media bans now gone, Indonesia’s Islamic faith and ideals have spread into mainstream media, including radio and movies.

And it seems that from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s words this past weekend at the 6th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy held in Indonesia, that he’d be an optimistic supporter of this movement, (if he’s not already). Yudhoyono was quoted saying that Islam, democracy and modernisation can develop in harmony in the country, without ever compromising religion. The leader even expressed his positive outlook on a larger scale, saying, ‘This moderate view of openness and tolerance in Indonesia and other communities in the world, is a seed of harmonious life among civilisations in the 21st century.’