Santrinization comes from santri, meaning student of pesantren (Islamic schools) or person commited to Islamic piety. Santrinization is a process through which a person becomes santri in the second meaning: a pious, practicing Muslim. It is often equated with Islamisation or re-Islamisation. In academic discourses, it refers to a state political process involving practicing Muslims. Nurcholis Madjid, for instance, says that : (a further Islamisation)—a process through which political elites in the New Order era coming from the abangan/ priyayi culture became closer to the santri culture. This process which started in 1977 was marked by the recruitment of local Muslim leaders by Golkar Party. Nurcholis Madjid, “Islam in Indonesia: Challenges and Opportunities,” in Cyriac K. Pullapy (ed.), Islam in the Contemporary World (Notre Dame, Indiana: Cross Roads Books, 1980), p. 354.

Santrinization also resulted from education process. Azyumardi Azra uses the term santrinization to refer to a phenomenon in which Islamic consciousness increased among middle class Muslims as a result of the development of Islamic education, especially madrasah and pesantren.

In the Reformasi era, and after the 9/11 tragedy, there has been an attempt to “blur” the definition of santrinization by linking it to radicalism. As an example,  Bilveer Singh identifies santrinization with radicalism. He, for instance, states, “… the rise of Islamic radicalism is clearly discernible, a process that is referred to in Indonesia as ‘santrinization’.”Bilveer Singh, The Talibalization of Southeast Asia: Losing the War on Terror to Islamist Extremists (Westport, CT: Praegar Security International, 2007), p. 145.

I think, he is wrong in making this overgeneralizing statement. He is talking about the involvement of Islamic leaders such as Abu Bakar Baasyir in radical movements. Yes, Baasyir is the leader of a pesantren, called Pondok Al-Mukmin Ngruki. However, this does not represent the whole character of pesantren. To identify santrinization with radicalism is a new invention by those observers like Singh who do not understand the history of pesantren and depend only on the media misrepresentation.

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