Islam in Australian-Indonesian relations: fear, stereotypes and opportunities

Indonesia Project

Event details

Indonesia Study Group

Date & time

Wednesday 14 June 2017


Coombs ext 1.04, Building 8, Fellows Road, ANU


Dr Greg Fealy, ANU.


Indonesia Project

Australian-Indonesian relations have often been said to be determined more by differences than commonalities. Perhaps the single greatest difference between the nations is that of religion. In a 2015 survey, which asked Australians to nominate one word to capture their view of Indonesia, the most popular term, by some margin, was ‘religion’. Accompanying Focus Group Discussions identified that by ‘religion’, respondents really meant Islam, and their opinions were overwhelmingly negative. In this seminar, I will explore the role of Islam in the bilateral relationship, particularly focussing on Australian government responses to perceptions of Indonesian Islam within Australia following the 2002 Bali bombing. Over the following decade, Islam came to dominate Australia’s diplomacy with Indonesia, drawing frequent comment from political leaders and with large and sometimes innovative Islamic sector aid programs. I will argue that Australian public anxiety and misunderstanding of Indonesian Islam led to a primarily security-driven approach to policy which failed to realise the potential benefits of greater Islamic engagement.

Greg Fealy is an associate professor in the Department of Political and Social Change in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU. He specialises in Indonesian politics and Islam.

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