Organized Panel Session
Does colonialism have long-term effects on patterns of religious militancy? This paper argues that the process of colonial state formation and policies related to zakat (Islamic tithe) and waqf (charitable endowments) were particularly important in shaping religious authorities in Indonesia and the Muslim world in general. States’ interventions in these institutions and sources of revenue generated durable political cleavages and conflicts. The paper focuses on the case of Indonesia where since the late colonial period the province of West Java has experienced more Islamic uprisings, rebellions, and militancy than the rest of the country. While dominant explanations point to ideational factors, this paper traces the origins of militancy in West Java to strategies of colonial state formation and their long-lasting effects on Muslim authorities in the region. The paper finds significant and overlooked sub-regional variations in local state formation strategies in Java. It shows that the particular strategy chosen by the colonial power was not driven by religious considerations, but by the kinds of cash crops a particular region produced. The production of crops such as sugar (East Java) and coffee (West Java) imposed region-specific challenges to local colonial authorities in their attempt to mobilize labor and to tax the native population. The paper shows that these efforts had unintended consequences on the strength of the institution of religious authorities such as waqf and zakat collection capacities and the type of political cleavages that emerged in the late colonial period.