COVID-19 and the Islamic Umma in Indonesia


About the Webinar

The COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia has significantly impacted the Muslims in the country. Although some are quick to learn and adapt to this new normal, others continue to dismiss the extent of the problem. Some observers argue that religion has impeded the community’s efforts to deal with the pandemic. In fact, some religious groups have been accused of worsening the situation: by organizing big gatherings; spreading fatalistic arguments; and opposing the government’s efforts. One of the groups blamed is the Tablighi Jamaat, regarded as the “largest viral vector of COVID-19.” Derogatory terms “Tablighi virus” and “Corona Jihad” have been applied to the group. The Tablighi Jamaat’s response was believed to not only block necessary efforts to deal with the virus, but also created religiophobia. To be sure, COVID-19 has triggered diverse reactions from the Islamic Umma in Indonesia, ranging from passive and fatalistic responses, which extends to spreading conspiracy theories, to positive ones by being prepared to work hand in hand with the government to mitigate the pandemic and saving lives. Responses from Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Ahmadiyah, and Tablighi Jamaat demonstrate this spectrum. To illustrate, the two largest Muslim organizations in Indonesia Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah focus on improving their capacity through programs, such as providing health and social services as well as aid for the needy, to fight against the impact of COVID-19. In addition, prominent religious elites such as Ustaz Abdul Somad, Muhammad Quraish Shihab, and other ulama or kyai also demonstrate these diverse reactions.

This webinar discusses the different responses of the Muslim community in Indonesia to COVID-19. It also examines how these responses interacted with the government’s efforts to tackle the issue. Here, the religious community’s response would not be effective with strong state backing or capacity. Lastly, the webinar speculates how this new normal will impact the Muslim ummah in future. Is this a new opportunity for the community to unite, or will this lead to a more regressive orientation to prevail?

About the Speakers

Ahmad Najib Burhani is Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Senior Researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta. He received his PhD in Religious Studies from the University of California-Santa Barbara, USA in 2013. He was a recipient of the Professor Charles Wendell Memorial Award from UCSB for his academic achievements in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. His recent publications include Menemani Minoritas (2019), Dilema Minoritas di Indonesia (2020), Heresy and Politics: How Indonesian Islam Deals with Extremism, Pluralism, and Populism (2020), “Torn between Muhammadiyah and Ahmadiyah in Indonesia: Discussing Erfaan Dahlan’s religious affiliation and self-exile,” Indonesia and the Malay World (2020), and “Muslim Televangelists in the Making: Conversion Narratives and the Construction of Religious Authority,” The Muslim World (2020).

Syafiq Hasyim is Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusok Ishak Institute. He is also a lecturer and director of the Library and Cultural Center at International Indonesian Islamic University (UIII), a newly established state international university in Indonesia. He obtained MA in Islamic Studies from Leiden University and PhD in Islamic Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies from Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universitaet, Berlin. His latest publications include “Fatwa and Democracy: Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI, Council of Indonesia Ulama) and the Rising Conservatism of Indonesian Islam,” published in TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia, 2019, “The Secular and the Religious: Secularization and Shariatisation in Indonesia,” in Religion, Secularism and Democracy in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 2019), edited by Prof. Vidhu Verma, and “Religious Pluralism Revisited: Discursive Patterns of the Ulama Fatwa in Indonesia and Malaysia, published in Studia Islamika, Vol 26, No. 3 (2019).


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

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For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


May 21 2020


10:30 am - 12:00 pm