The Making of the “Righteous” Muslim Woman: The Internet’s Role in Islamic Preaching and Segregating Indonesian Muslim Women

Ratna Fabrian (Universitas Indonesia)

Abstract

The internet has become a space to share and spread knowledge on Islamic practices and Islamic virtues through virtual forums and posts at the global level. One of the apparent sub-themes of virtual preaching is the concept of the “ideal” Muslim woman which influences the religious practices of Indonesian Muslim women. However, not everyone consults the same websites since the use of the internet varies, mainly due to the users’ own interests and the influences they receive from their surroundings. This eventually creates differences in religious practices that later give rise to the “righteous Muslim woman” identity – Muslim women who practice their religion in “the proper way” according to current popular interpretations of Islam. Not only a new identity emerges, but also antipathy between groups, usually in the form of verbal harassments, also becomes apparent. This paper discusses the phenomenon of the spread of Islamic information through the internet – particularly from websites such as Facebook, blogs, including chat applications like LINE – that influences the religious practices of Indonesian Muslim women as well as the socio-religious exclusivity that it causes. Taking into account the perspectives of women who engage in a number of Islamic virtual fora, the paper examines how the virtual fora inform the users’ understanding of the “ideal righteous Muslim woman”, as well as how the women, confirmed by the information they have gained from the internet, establish the concept of religious exclusivity and justify their actions based on their religious knowledge.