Mobility has always been a central aspect for Islamic cultures in Indonesia. Arab, Persian and Indian traders who landed on the coasts of Java and Sumatra spread the revelation of the Prophet Muhammad throughout the archipelago. The increasingly popular pilgrimage tourism, a more recent form of mobility, brings Indonesia to the Arab world, generating new images about other regions and cultures. By analysing Javanese pilgrims’ retrospective narrations of pilgrimage experiences, I show how the perceptions of an Indonesian self and an Arab other manifest current characteristics of popular urban Muslim culture as well as enforce traditional Javanese values.
As a result of encounters with other Islamic cultures in Mecca, Javanese pilgrims’ self-confidence is reinforced and views on the Arab world are diversified. Furthermore, the communitas with fellow Javanese, Indonesian and Southeast Asian Muslims that pilgrims experience during the ritual essentially contributes to their identification as distinctively Asian and Indonesian. By claiming the importance of their presence in Mecca and through the mutual cultural exchange between Indonesian and Arab cultures, Javanese pilgrims are making Arab their own.
Pilgrimage, hajj, Indonesian Islam, self and other, popularisation