GIGA Focus International Edition English

Saudi Arabia Exporting Salafi Education and Radicalizing Indonesia’s Muslims

Number 7 | 2014 | ISSN: 2196-3940

  • Salafis, who defend a very conservative, literal interpretation of Islam and treat Shia Muslims with hostility, are not just a phenomenon in the Middle East. They are increasingly pressuring Shias and other religious minorities in Indonesia, too.


    Saudi Arabia is the world’s main provider of Islamic education. In addition to promoting Salafism and maligning other religious communities, Saudi educational materials present the kingdom in a favorable light and can also exacerbate religious strife, as they are doing in Indonesia. The Saudi educational program aims to create global alliances and legitimize the Saudi claim to be the leader of Islam – at home and abroad.

    • Since switching to democracy in 1998, Indonesia has been shaken time and again by Salafi religious discrimination and violence, often on the part of graduates of LIPIA College in Jakarta, which was founded by Saudi Arabia in 1980.

    • Domestically, Saudi Arabia uses educational institutions to stabilize the system; since the 1960s, it has become the largest exporter of Islamic education. After Saudi Arabia began to fight with Iran for religious hegemony in 1979, it founded schools and universities worldwide to propagate its educational traditions.

    • In Jakarta, LIPIA represents a Saudi microcosm where Salafi norms and traditions prevail. LIPIA not only helps Saudi Arabia to influence Indonesian society, it also provides a gateway to all of Southeast Asia.

    • As long as Muslim societies fail to create attractive government-run educational institutions for their citizens, there will be ample room for Saudi influence.



      The GIGA Focus is an Open Access publication and can be read on the Internet and downloaded free of charge at According to the conditions of the Creative-Commons license Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 this publication may be freely duplicated, circulated and made accessible to the public. The particular conditions include the correct indication of the initial publication as GIGA Focus and no changes in or abbreviation of texts.

      The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.


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