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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Resurgence & insurgents : the origins of secularism in the Aceh conflict Barter, Shane Joshua


This thesis explores the role of religion, specifically its absence, in the ongoing separatist conflict in Aceh, Indonesia. Several approaches to the source and mobilization of ethnic identity are investigated, including a specific focus on religious mobilization and political Islam. Case studies of historical Aceh, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines illustrate these theories, where Islam is primarily mobilized from below in conflicts, although leaders play important roles as well. Each of these cases witnessed a growth of political Islam as the conflicts endured, pushing leaders towards religious interpretations. Aceh provides a deviant case study; despite a history of Islamic conflict, other case studies, a deeply Islamic culture, decades of conflict, and global trends towards political Islam, the conflict lacks significant religious elements. What accounts for Acehnese secularism and how does this speak to broader theory? Acehnese secularism is a product of several factors; namely, a shared faith between state and separatist and a secular rebel leadership educated in and operating from Western countries. This thesis presents a case where, despite an orthodox population, Islam has not been mobilized in the conflict. It also illustrates the role of leaders in determining the nature of a conflict and suggests a role for Islamic leaders in community-level peace talks.

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