Ciputat, UIN News Online – The conservative narrative of Islamic understanding dominates Islamic discourse on social media. The narrative of Islamic conservatism also escalated in the political years. Geographically, Java is still the most important contributor to the contestation of religious understanding in Indonesia.

That is the conclusion of the research report of the Center for Islamic and Community Studies (PPIM) UIN Jakarta entitled “Beragama di Dunia Maya: Media Sosial dan Pandangan Keagamaan di Indonesia” which was presented online on Monday (11/16/2020). The research was conducted by the Media and Religious Trend in Indonesia (MERIT) Research Team coordinated by Iim Halimatusa’diyah and Taufik Sutanto as data scientist.

Iim said that her research took data from two social media platforms, namely Twitter and YouTube in the 2009-2019 timeframe. The data is analyzed quantitatively to see trends and distribution patterns that occur on social media. In addition, this study also utilizes qualitative data through in-depth interviews with a number of key informants.

The research findings conducted by her team found the dominance of conservative religious ideology narratives on the Twitter platform (67.2%). Meanwhile, other religious beliefs are far below it, such as moderate (22.2%), liberal (6.1%) and Islamist (4.5%).

“Conservative narratives that appear on social media are generally related to issues of women, state relations, citizens and groups in society, as well as good and bad practices,” said Iim.

Iim said that thematic discussions on social media were also dominated by conservative narratives. In gender topics, conservative ideas are widely used in building views on women’s subordination. Ignoring equality, the narrative about women only dwells in a limited scope on their roles as children, mothers and housewives.

This study also shows that women are more prone to religious fanaticism exposure. Therefore, the dominance of conservative narratives on gender issues and the high proportion of conservative narratives among women can give birth to the conservative transmission between generations.

Another finding from this study is related to the politicization of religious narratives which have an impact on increasing conservatism on social media. This can be seen from the high relationship between religious issues and politics. Political context plays an important role in the construction of religious narratives on social media. Religious issues on Twitter have changed a lot according to the dynamics of political conditions.

Religious hashtags generally increase in non-political years but decrease in political years. Meanwhile, political hashtags have appeared in many political years, especially since the 2014 elections. This shows that political competition in Indonesia often revolves around religious issues. Religious narratives are generally used for political purposes to gain mass support.

“The politicization of religious narratives is not only carried out by Islamic parties but also by almost all political parties including National parties. There is a phenomenon of the dissemination of conflicts of interest for the elite groups in the public domain through the distribution of religious narratives on social media,” she said.

Meanwhile, this study found the fact that Java Island is an arena where contestation of religious understanding occurs, especially in Jakarta.. Moderate understanding dominates discourse in cyberspace with 67.11%, followed by conservatives (60.11%), Islamists (53.19%) and liberals (44.64%).

Another finding that confirms the dominance of religious conservatism in cyberspace is that the central actors in the construction of religious narratives on social media are dominated by accounts that tend to be Islamist and conservative. Posts from these accounts have a high potential to become viral.

“Even though moderate understanding has a greater proportion than Islamists, the nature of its participation, which tends to be silent, is far defeated by the Islamist movement which is more active in speaking out through social media,” she added.

This finding further strengthens the position of Islamist groups as a noisy minority, a group with a small number but greater resonance on social media. Moreover, another finding that has been taken from the centrality of actors is the closure of social networks that are formed between account clusters on Twitter. (usa/zm)

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