This thesis is based on a fieldwork undertaken in 2003-2004 among Muslim female students at a public university in the city of Malang on East Java, Indonesia. I have attempted to answer the following research question: How are the Islamic perspectives of Javanese students connected to their social constellations, conduct, world views and identity constructions? With an intra-cultural comparative perspective, I bring attention to the Muslim youth s relations to their beliefs and to how they explain their particular Islamic practices. The thesis approaches Islamic heterogeneity from four different perspectives.
Firstly, I describe and analyse how the students Islamic costumes are used as means of communication in their multi-layered symbolic contents; how they balance Western, Islamic and Javanese values and trends. I suggest that wearers of the veil not necessarily want to communicate an Islamic message, and that the different uses of the veil constitute an ideological discourse of Islamic interpretations that is well adapted to the Javanese tradition of display and emphasis on appearance.
Secondly, I question how the students make expressions of modernity through their Islamic practices. I employ several definitions of the concept modernity in an analysis of how the religiously moderate and the orthodox students represent different aspects of religious modernity in Indonesia, each in their own sense. I argue that, in a changing social and religious landscape, all the students express forms of modernity through Islam - although in highly differing ways.
Thirdly, I analyse how the Muslim students regarded Islam as dissimilar normative regimes, and subsequently how these views affected their ideas and practices. I argue that the dissimilar religious internalisations influenced the students bodily conduct and self-discipline. Another argument is that the norm interpretations and bodily religious discipline also acted as means of transferring tradition among the students.
The fourth perspective concerns how the students subjective experiences of being Muslims were connected to their other identities. The analysis is based on a conception of identity as a contextual and many-faceted phenomenon. In easily observable and different ways, and with dissimilar explanations, the female students adapted Islam to their constructions and presentations of self, with regard to identities of gender, social and geographical belonging, and ethnicity.
In the conclusion I argue that the heterogeneity of Islam in Malang limits the utility of equalling Islamisation in Java with increased Islamic orthodoxy elsewhere in the world. Acknowledging the framework of universal Islamic communication and categories, all Islamic trends must be considered in light of the context, i.e., the local traditions and the ideological discourses and practices, to be fully comprehended.