Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

At the Forefront of a Post-Patriarchal Islamic Education Female Teachers in Indonesia

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

At the Forefront of a Post-Patriarchal Islamic Education Female Teachers in Indonesia

Article excerpt


This article argues that the ongoing introduction of a gender perspective in Indonesian Islamic education is challenging the partially unconscious patriarchal gender regime of these institutions and a means of resisting traditional notions of religious authority. The activities of female teachers, scholars and researchers are instrumental in these endeavors. This study draws on empirical material collected through fieldwork in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Makassar, Banjarmasin, and Bandung, and includes brochures, books, course literature, research, interviews, and discussions. Data is primarily collected from state institutes for higher Islamic education and especially at their respective Centers for Women Studies. This material constitutes examples of how female, and male, religious scholars and teachers challenge the prevailing gender bias in Islamic education on all levels by introducing a gender perspective in curriculum, teaching, and textbooks, but also in their roles as exemplars and religious authorities. I argue that these measures are important in creating gender awareness among Muslim students. However, to successfully challenge the structures of Islamic education, several conditions have to be met: producing less gender-biased Islamic interpretations, an academic climate that is open to inclusion of these interpretations in Islamic education on various levels, increasing the number of female teachers, and sufficient economic funding. Some of these prerequisites are already being met in the case of Indonesia.

Keywords: Indonesia, fieldwork, gender perspective in Islamic education


Islamic boarding schools or pesantrens (2) have historically dominated Islamic education in Indonesia. Pesantrens have a traditionalist orientation and follow the teachings of the founding kiai, or religious scholar. The current leading kiai plays a great role in education as well as life at the schools. As a reaction to these traditional institutions reform-minded Islamic scholars established madrasa (3) schools in the early twentieth century; general subjects were included in the curriculum and pedagogical methods were reformed. This development had an impact on pesantrens but a majority is still very patriarchal and colored by local traditions (Azra, Afrianty & Hefner, 2007).

Higher Islamic education in Indonesia has, since the early 1970s, been continuously reformed regarding curriculum and approach to the study of Islam. This process was initiated by Harun Nasution as rector at the State Islamic Institute in Jakarta and Mukti Ali as Minister of Religious Affairs (Kull, 2005). However, in the area of gender studies and institutional gender equality, development is generally lagging behind, although Indonesia is far ahead of many other Muslim countries. In order to successfully challenge the still dominant patriarchal structure of Islamic education in Indonesia there are several prerequisites that need to be met. The first is to produce Islamic interpretations with a gender neutral or even openly female perspective. The second is the conviction to include these interpretations in the curriculum and textbooks, and/or political instruments aimed at facilitating such an inclusion. The third is a large cadre of well-educated female teachers. An additional and general condition is sufficient economic funding.

Methodologically this paper is built on a combination of fieldwork and text analysis. Fieldwork was carried out in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Makassar, Banjarmasin and Bandung--places chosen because of their geographical diversity and local variations in Islamic practice and tradition--primarily at their State Islamic Institutes (IAIN/UIN (4)), and especially at their respective Centers for Women Studies (PSW (5)). The textual material includes brochures, books, course literature, researches, interviews and discussions.

The concepts "gender order" and "gender regime"--elaborated by R. …

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