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Making Jihadis, Waging Jihad: Transnational and Local Dimensions of the ISIS Phenomenon in Indonesia and Malaysia


Journal abstract

This article examines the ISIS phenomenon in Indonesia and Malaysia. It aims to explain how, where, and why the transnational and local intersect as well as the role of religion, particularly in the ideological narratives and recruitment strategies of local jihadi groups. At the heart of this analysis is the question to what extent Indonesians and Malaysians were lured into joining ISIS as a result of its "universal" ideology and global recruitment strategy or whether they were instead propelled by local Indonesian and Malaysian dynamics into Syria and into "importing" and "indigenising" ISIS to advance their own agendas. The article argues that the potency and appeal of the extremist narrative of ISIS derives from how it animates and feeds off prevailing debates within Indonesia and Malaysia. These debates revolve around issues such as the nature of Muslim identity and what it means to be a "good Muslim", the place of Islamic law in society, relations within the ummah as well as with non-Muslims, and Islamic eschatology. While there is clearly a transnational dimension, the motivations for Southeast Asians to sympathize with or join the Syrian jihad and their engagement with ISIS are ultimately the product of local Indonesian and Malaysian dynamics rather than the "lure" of ISIS per se. This article thus contributes to the broader scholarly debate on how "global" the global jihad actually is and the phenomenon of "glocalisation".

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