Apocalypticism, radicalisation and jihadism: exploring the impact of ‘End of World’ discourses on Indonesian Islamism

Wednesday 12 December, 12.30-2.00pm

Lt 1.04, Coombs Extension #8, Fellows Road, ANU

Greg Fealy (ANU)


When two pro-ISIS families launched suicide bombings on Surabaya churches and police facilities in May 2018, killing 28 people, they were not primarily driven by a desire to support the faltering Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or fellow jihadists who had recently rioted in a police detention centre in Jakarta. They had come to believe that the world would soon end when a meteor crashed into the planet, blanketing the earth in a ruinous cloud of smoke. This calamity would precipitate the descent to earth of the Mahdi (Saviour) who would defeat Islam’s foes, leading to the Day of Judgement. The jihadist families were convinced that if they didn’t act quickly, events would overtake them and their chance of going to heaven would be lost. This seminar will survey Indonesia’s apocalyptic discourses and explore the multiple effects this has on Muslim audiences, of which the Surabaya bombings have been by far the most extreme. I am particularly interested in how End Time narratives can both comfort but also deeply unsettle their devotees, in the worst cases creating a sense of fractured reality and time compression, like an accelerating metronome, impelling them into violent actions.