The Institutional Foundations of Religious Politics: Evidence from Indonesia

78 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2018 Last revised: 7 May 2021

See all articles by Samuel Bazzi

Samuel Bazzi

Boston University - Department of Economics

Gabriel Koehler-Derrick

United States Military Academy, West Point

Benjamin Marx

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 2018

Abstract

This paper explores the foundations of religious influence in politics and society. We show that an important Islamic institution fostered the entrenchment of Islamism at a critical juncture in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. In the early 1960s, rural elites transferred large amounts of land into waqf —inalienable charitable trusts in Islamic law—to avoid expropriation by the state. Regions facing a greater threat of expropriation exhibit more prevalent waqf land and Islamic institutions endowed as such, including mosques and religious schools. These endowments provided conservative forces with the capital needed to promote Islamist ideology and mobilize against the secular state. We identify lasting effects on the size of the religious sector, electoral support for Islamist parties, and the adoption of local sharia laws. These effects are shaped by greater demand for religion in government but not by greater piety among the electorate. Waqf assets also impose costs on the local economy, particularly in agriculture where these endowments are associated with lower productivity. Overall, our findings shed new light on the origins and consequences of Islamism.

Suggested Citation

Bazzi, Samuel and Koehler-Derrick, Gabriel and Marx, Benjamin, The Institutional Foundations of Religious Politics: Evidence from Indonesia (October 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w25151, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3266244

Samuel Bazzi (Contact Author)

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Gabriel Koehler-Derrick

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

Benjamin Marx

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

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