In October 2008 Indonesian legislators finally passed a law against pornography. By then the controversy surrounding the bill had become more divisive than virtually any legislative disagreement since the resignation of President Soeharto a decade before. The bill’s opponents bemoaned the “Islamization” of Indonesia, while proponents lamented the “degradation” of national morality. Notable among the Muslim television preachers who rallied popular support for the bill were Aa Gym, Arifin Ilham, and Ustad Jefri al-Buchori. Each of these men tried to parlay celebrity appeal into political capital by inviting national politicians and Muslim intellectuals to share the spotlight at anti-pornography marches, rallies, and media events. Too often, accounts of Islam and politics invoke the specter of an Islamic state and ignore the cultural relevance of Muslim ethics. Dr. Hoesterey will try to correct this imbalance by mining the anti-porn bill imbroglio for insights into religion and governance in Indonesia.
Jim Hoesterey conducted two years of fieldwork at the Islamic school, training complex, and broadcast studios of Indonesia’s celebrated television preacher and self-help guru, Abdullah Gymnastiar. Hoesterey’s writings on Muslim media, religious authority, and the cultural politics of morality have appeared in the journal Indonesia (2009), the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (2009), and Expressing Islam: Religious Life and Politics in Indonesia (2008). He completed his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009) and is now working on a book manuscript, Sufis and Self-help Gurus: Islam and the Cultural Politics of Moral Authority.