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Women's Practice and Wahhabism in a Javanese Pesantren


The dissertation refutes the causal linkage between Wahhabism, violence, radicalism and gender-based discriminative practices. Focusing on PPMWI, a pesantren that theologically embraces Wahhabi habitus of tawhid and was reported as the site of radicalism, the research investigates the common perception that theological conservatism as well as theological radicalism have a causal relationship with gender based discrimination. It focuses on sources and concepts of religious authority used to justify alternative practices and the ways in which this mode of social practice has become an element of religious and cultural discourse. Analysis builds on the theoretical insights of Pierre Bourdieu concerning habitus, practices, and field and of Khaled Abou el Fadl on agency and authority. The habitus of women as secondarily created beings, the source of sexual temptation, and their important involvement in public life, leads women of PPMWI to strategize the field and produce their own practices. Rather than religion based violence and gender discrimination, theological radicalism tends to operate as a mechanism to produce inclusive gender practices. Women’s free access and involvement in public domain and their exercise of power and strategizing the field are far away from extremist’s detachment of rational understanding of Islam. In this context, women engage in the process of understanding the will of God and have commitment, power, and authority to reinterpret and reconstruct religious norms and doctrines. Some others exercise power to accept the persuasive authority of religious leaders. The religious leaders’ authority often leads religious community, including women, to just follow the habitus the leaders inculcate through their choice and without coercion. The habitus of tawhid is congruent with that of gender equality in public life. It becomes the strategy for involvement in the public space, as it entails the concept of equality among human beings, including the equality between man and woman

Key Words: Women, radicalism, tawhid, power, gender-inclusive practices