The Impact of Localization on
the Practice of Islam in Indonesia
How do Muslim unity and local cultural diversity inform
the practice of Islam in Indonesia?
This activity underscores the commonalities among Muslims and
localized forms in Southeast Asia through examination of a variety of
documents, including text, poetry, and photographs. Students will be
asked to respond to guiding questions for each document, and then
generate a list of universal tenets and examples of localization of Islam
in Southeast Asia. Finally, the class is asked to discuss how religions
change and develop distinct local features, particularly as reflected in
the region that is Indonesia and Malaysia today.
Students will be able to:
- Identify the universal ideas of Islam and the regional adaptations
to its practice.
- Understand, in general, how “localization,” or syncretism takes
place as a religion is spread around the globe.
- Use primary and secondary artifacts to analyze and interpret
culture and historical change.
Two to three class periods
Introduction to Southeast Asia: History, Geography, and Livelihood
Barbara Watson Andaya
Religious Practices and Cultural Expression
Diversity and Community in Contemporary Society
Michael G. Peletz
- Learning packet of documents, texts, photos and
guiding questions, including:
- Graphic Organizer: Universal and Local Elements of
Islam (one per student)
- As a class, ask students to consider how a religion
might be influenced by local environments as it
spreads across the globe. Specifically, call attention to
the differences in geography and culture that might exist
between the desert regions of Saudi Arabia and the
tropical environs of Southeast Asia. Consider that Islam
arrived in Indonesia through merchants from overseas.
What elements of the religion would not change? Why?
Explain that this lesson will focus on the central tenets
of Islam that are universal, and will also consider how
religions change with local influences. Specifically, how
did Islam change in Indonesia?
- Divide the class into small groups of four to five students
and distribute copies of the learning packet to
each student. Working together, each group will read
the documents and answer the guiding questions.
Review responses as a class.
- Hand out the graphic organizer, Universal and Local
Elements of Islam. Using their responses, the groups
will each complete the organizer labeled “Basic Tenets
of Islam” and “Localization of Islam in Indonesia,”
placing examples under each heading.
- As a class, review the organizer responses. Consider
how Islam in Southeast Asia acts as one example of
localization or syncretism of religion. Consider the
- How might the local environment influence
elements of religion?
- What elements of religion are likely to change?
- How does having basic tenets unify people
within a religion?
- How might localization make people more likely
to embrace a religion?
Students will be assessed on their responses to guiding
questions and the organizer, as well as participation in
Contents of the learning packet may be amended for
the class, or a group, as ability dictates. Heterogeneous
groupings may also support English Language Learners
or students with special needs.
As an additional assignment, ask students to write an
essay on one of the following topics:
- Research how local Muslims practice their religion.
For example: Where is the nearest mosque? What
are the days/hours of community worship? Are there
markets or restaurants that cater to dietary requirements?
Where might a Muslim woman purchase a
- Look for evidence of localization of Islam in the
United States that is a result of environment and
culture. Does this differ in various parts of our
country? Why? Which practices remain universal?