The institutional foundations of religious politics: evidence from Indonesia
MetadataShow full item record
First author draft
Citation (published version)Samuel Bazzi, Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Benjamin Marx. "The institutional foundations of religious politics: evidence from Indonesia." 77 pages.
Why do religious politics thrive in some societies but not others? This paper explores the institutional foundations of this process in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. We show that an important Islamic institution, the waqf, fostered the entrenchment of Islamism at a critical juncture. In the early 1960s, rural elites transferred large amounts of land into waqf—a type of inalienable charitable trust—to avoid expropriation by the government as part of a major land reform effort. We exploit policy rules to show that greater intensity of the planned reform led to more prevalent waqf land and Islamic institutions endowed as such, including mosques and religious schools. After Indonesia’s democratic transition, the Islamist movement leveraged these endowments to confront the secular state and expand the influence of religion in public life. We identify lasting effects on electoral support for Islamist parties, the adoption of sharia regulations, and the size of the religious sector. These changes do not come from higher religiosity, but are instead driven by distinct views about the role of religion in government. However, this also comes with economic costs, particularly in agriculture where large waqf endowments reduce productivity. Overall, our findings shed new light on the origins and consequences of Islamism.