Young Indonesian-muslims in Australia: identity, family and the ummah

2017-05-15T05:08:17Z (GMT) by Zulfikar, Teuku
This study examines a group of Australian Indonesian-Muslim youths’ ways of being Muslim in relation to their experiences within their families and the Muslim community. Families and religious spaces are important social and educational sites for identity formation. In unpacking these young Indonesian Muslims’ ways of constructing and negotiating their Muslim identity, I interviewed 12 Muslim teenagers and their parents. The senior members of Indonesian Muslim community and the president of the Indonesian Muslim community of Victoria were also interviewed. The Indonesian youths also wrote personal narratives describing their experiences within their family as well as in the Muslim and broader community. In this study, I look at the ways in which Muslim identity is represented in the religious texts, the Qur`ān and the Hadith. These two central religious texts describe essentialised understandings of Muslim identity, which define Muslims as those who submit and surrender totally to the will of Allāh and express their devotion through fulfilling their religious duties. I also draw on the works of Muslim scholars located in the west such as Basit (1997, 2009), Mondal (2008), Ramadan (2004), Yasmeen (2008) and Zine (2008) on ways of being Muslim. While acknowledging that the construction of Muslim identity is rooted in religious doctrine, these Muslim scholars in the West also believe that Muslim identity is socially and culturally constructed. My research positionings as an insider and outsider are unpacked in this study. I share some similar experiences in being a Muslim like all my participants. Unlike, these young Muslims, however, I was born and have lived most of my life in Indonesia, a country with a Muslim majority. My educational and religious backgrounds are also different from those of my research participants. The findings of my study indicate that these Indonesian-Muslim youths’ experiences within their families and their community have significantly shaped their ways of understanding their Muslimness. These young Muslims hold essentialised understandings of Muslim identity, Australian identity and Indonesian identity. They associate specific physical, social, and cultural markers with these essentialised identities, albeit drawing on these different markers differently in their own ways of being young Muslim. Three groups emerged in my study: Balancing being Muslim, Australian and Indonesian; Being practising Muslims, Indonesian and Australian, and Being strong Muslims, Indonesian and Australian. These findings have provided insights into the ways in which Indonesian Muslim youth constructed their sense of Muslim identity within the Australian contexts. The findings also broaden understandings migrant communities and their cultural and religious experiences in Australia.