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Cyberwarriors and Counterstars: Contesting Religious Radicalism and Violence on Indonesian Social Media

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image of Asiascape: Digital Asia

In Indonesia, social media offer a site for countering Islamic radicalism and violence. But what kinds of counternarratives or counterdiscourses can be distinguished on social media? This article explores the question by focusing on one social media counterinitiative: that of the ‘cyberwarriors’, volunteers who battle Islamic radicalism on social media with memes, hash tags, comics, and videos as their weapons of choice. By practicing a threefold ‘politics of threat’, ‘exceptionality’, and ‘inspiration’, cyber warriors construct a counternarrative in which ulama and kyai, traditional figures of religious authority, are transformed into hip, strong, cool, and ‘iconic’ ‘counterstars’, whose legacy shields the country from radicalism. In this process, traditional religious authority is simultaneously (re)claimed and further fragmented, while users are offered the tools to model themselves after ulama to help them save the country.

Affiliations: 1: Media Studies Department, University of Amsterdam


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