In essence, ‘Islamis’ refers to those individuals or groups who advocate the ideology of Islamism. Islamism is a political ideology with religious undertones. It is not based on faith but rather on the ideological application of religion in the political sphere. Islamists are committed to shaping a new social and political order by placing Islamic teachings at its core.
In Indonesia, the emergence of Islamic groups began after the downfall of the centralist regime in 1998. They appeared in various forms and with specific ideas. There are at least two major factions within the Islamic groups. First, there are those who tend to see Islam as a substantial instrument. They focus on the importance of nurturing and fostering a religious community without institutionalizing Islam.
Secondly, there are groups oriented towards formalism. These groups adhere to the doctrine of ‘innal al-Islam Din wa Daulah,’ which means ‘Islam is both a religion and a state.’ They agree that Islam is a socio-political system where the functions of religion and politics cannot be separated but must be formalized and legalized under one umbrella known as the ‘Islamic State.’
However, these groups have different approaches to achieving their goals. Some establish Islamic political parties and other Islamist instruments, effectively becoming ‘Institutional Islamists.’ Others take a militant path through ‘jihad amar ma’ruf nahi munkar’ (enjoining good and forbidding evil), which can be referred to as ‘Jihadist Islamists,’ as described by Bassam Tibi.
Over the years, Islamic groups have been active in propagating their beliefs in the public sphere. They found a significant moment of unity in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, particularly in their opposition to Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok). Ahok, the incumbent governor, ran for re-election but faced allegations of blasphemy against Islam, specifically related to Quranic verses. Islamic groups mobilized in large numbers against him.