Consortium of:

Politics of Niqabi: Salafi Women, Agency and Everyday Life


The development of the Salafi movement as a new religious movement in Indonesia brings many changes into the religious face of Indonesia, one of which is the mushrooming niqab wearing practice among Muslimah (Muslim women). Niqab becomes a practice found easily amid Indonesian people and is worn by many women with different backgrounds. The choice of wearing niqab is often viewed as a conservative religious practice that generates many questions about women's agency in making choices for their lives. Niqab, tightly following the religious rules they believe in such as wearing a wide robe, covering the entire body including the face, and restricting their participation in public space, is often viewed as a passive subject that continuously reproduces inequality through the life choices they have made. In Western mainstream feminism's view, women in this conservative religious tradition are a subordinate group that has limited agency because their choice of life way is different from other mainstream women's groups. This research analyzed niqabis' daily life in Surakarta by focusing on two primary questions: do niqabis have agency? and what forms of agency do they play? And are deepen through these three basic questions: what motivated the women to wear niqab? What are the challenges they deal with and their strategies for their struggles? To what extent do they exercise their agency and what forms of agency do they play to negotiate? These questions explored the niqabis' struggling process in negotiating their situation to bridge their previous and their new life corresponding to Salafi manhaj they currently follow. Using Macleod's Accommodating Protest theory, this research reveals niqabis' complex struggle amid the power relation encircling their lives. By applying an ethnographic method using in-depth interviews and participatory observation, this study found that the ambiguous actions the niqabis took in negotiating the dilemmas they face as women is not merely a form of passive, subordinate woman's action that has limited agency. In fact, it shows a niqabis' political struggle in the form of informal and hidden power shown in a clear form, niqab, as a women's communicating medium.

Key Words: Niqabi, Salafism, Salafi manhaj, accommodating protest, agency