Case Studies of Indonesian Madrasa in Using Media and Technology to Bring About Social Change in their Communities

TitleCase Studies of Indonesian Madrasa in Using Media and Technology to Bring About Social Change in their Communities
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Muchtar, N., and J. Ritchey
Affiliation (1st Author)Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Section or WGMedia, Religion and Culture Working Group
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeMRCS1a
Slot Code (Keyword)MRCS1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleClash of Cultures: A case study in Islam and the West
Submission ID5571

Since the September 11th tragedy, Western media have actively reported terrorism and terrorist incidents from differing angles. Background stories and images of alleged terrorists, including their upbringing and educational backgrounds, are among the topics typically covered. Nevertheless, these stories often display a limited understanding of the traditions, doctrines, and contextual elements unique to specific non-Western nations. One topic of particular interest to Western media has been Islamic education—with the subject often taking center stage when an act of terror can be linked to Madrasah (Islamic schools). Such has been the case in Indonesia, with some national media outlets accusing these schools, or what the Indonesians refer to as Pesantren, of contributing to or encouraging terrorist actions. Previous studies have shown that pesantren have played a part in developing both the Indonesian educational system and in aiding the nation’s economic development (Geertz ,1960). Pohl (2007) noted that pesantren are different from religious schools in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and that they have actually helped to bring about progressive social changes in Indonesia. Permani (2011) has further described how these schools assisted in the development of local communities thereby providing a fertile context for progressive movements. This study extends the above research by examining how pesantren have participated in the process of social change, focusing specifically on their use of media and technology—not only as a tool for their students but also as an outlet to their communities. Data were derived from direct observation of 10 schools from 5 different regions in Indonesia, interviews with 12 leaders from these schools, and document analysis of websites from various pesantren (not only from the schools visited but also other schools in different areas of Indonesia). All the interview participants indicated that they were aware of the negative images attached to their schools; however, they believe that focusing on developing education and creating close connections to the community are the keys to dealing with this crisis of trust. The fact that these schools focus on teenagers and young adults forced them to adapt to the needs of their students. Their continuous efforts to involve their surrounding communities and adapt to local traditions are distinctive features that make these schools different from similar schools in other countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

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