Apocalyptic thought, conspiracism and Jihad in Indonesia

Greg Fealy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of apocalyptic and conspiracist discourses on Indonesian jihadi thinking and behaviour has been little studied, but evidence in recent years is mounting that it has been significant. Many Indonesians who joined Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq from 2013 were driven in part by a belief that the final cataclysmic battle between Islam and its foes would occur there imminently, and the families responsible for the 2018 Surabaya suicide bombing which killed more than two dozen people were convinced that the world would soon end. This article examines Indonesia’s contemporary apocalyptic literature, with an emphasis on the two main genres: populist and jihadist. It argues that the populist forms, though sensational, highly conspiratorial and commercially motivated, are more insidious than commonly assumed, and can have a “priming effect” upon radicalizing readers by deepening their sense of crisis and grievance, thus inclining them to extreme views and actions. Jihadi apocalypticism has a stronger scholarly basis, but is subject to serious debate and some scepticism within Islamist circles. For some jihadis, such discourses bring a compelling urgency that triggers violence, but for others, apocalypticism is viewed more warily due to the risk that it impairs judgement and leads to erroneous strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-85
Number of pages23
JournalContemporary Southeast Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


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