Are Islamic Schools in Indonesia Educating for or Against Religious Extremism

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This research project seeks to explore the crucial role that Indonesian Islamic school principals play in leading schools that educate for or against religious extremism.


Dr Melanie Brooks
Monash University
Professor Irwan Abdullah
Universitas Gadjah Mada
Professor Imam Taufiq
Walisongo State Islamic University


This qualitative case study took place in Semarang, Indonesia. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with school leaders along with school site observations. To frame the study, we drew from both Indonesian and international scholarship to understand extant perspectives on the context and on the ways that principals influence socio-religious thinking and practices in schools.


Findings suggested that principals' personal experiences and beliefs are central to the ways that socio-religious thinking and practices manifest in their school. Principals practice more progressive or conservative leadership by influencing the degree to which the school is:

  • (a) an open or closed system,
  • (b) inclusive or exclusive in their practices and
  • (c) plural or unitary in their teaching.

In making decisions along each of these continua, principals in Islamic schools “curate” a socio-religious educational environment.


Brooks, M.C., Brooks, J.S., Mutohar, A., & Taufiq, I. (2020). Principals as socio-religious curators: Progressive and conservative approaches in Islamic schools. Journal of Educational Administration. Advance online publication.