On the island of Madura, various forms of pilgrimage–migration, a fusion of labour migration and pilgrimage, challenge the Indonesian government’s regulation of pilgrims’ and labourers’ mobility to the Gulf. Among the Madurese people, alternative channels of travelling to Mecca are increasingly popular and informal; personal networks appear to be considered more reliable and accountable than the state’s guidance. The Madurese people’s strong desire to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, local conceptions of migration in search of success and incomprehensible bureaucratic procedures in the official channels of migration and pilgrimage motivate people to circumvent state structures. Moreover, rumours about the ‘Madurese mafia’ in Mecca and the religious elite’s connections to the ‘Holy Land’ strengthen religious and ethnic affiliations. Local loyalties challenge the state’s sovereignty over actual practices of semi-legal approaches to migration and pilgrimage.
Israel and Indonesia share no diplomatic relations, and considering Indonesia’s cordial bonds with the Palestinian Authority, Indonesian society is deemed to be critical of Israel. However, the ways in which Indonesians relate to ‘Others’ in Israel and Palestine are not monolithic. Indonesian perspectives on the Middle East are far more nuanced, as might be assumed from the largest Muslim society in the world, and the idea of ‘taking sides’ is challenged by encounters on the ground and by inter- and intra-religious rivalries. Contemporary pilgrimage tourism from Indonesia to Israel and the Palestinian Territories shows how Christian and Muslim Indonesians engage in conflictive identity politics through contrasting images of Israeli and Palestinian Others. Indonesian pilgrims’ viewpoints on these Others and on the Israel–Palestine conflict mirror the politicization and marketization of religious affiliation. This reveals peculiarities of the local engagement with global politics and the impact of travelling, which can inspire both the manifestation of enemy images and the blurring of identity markers.
Travel following religious aims has a long tradition in the Indonesian-Malay Archipelago. Yet mass overseas religious tourism is a relatively recent phenomenon among people in today’s Indonesia. A variety of travel agencies advertise pilgrimage package tours to notable destinations like Mecca and Medina but also to other destinations in the Middle East, Europe, East Asia, and Central Asia. An analytical focus on various images in this context, including their creation and distribution, reveals patterns of prestigious cosmopolitan middle-class imagery among Muslim and Christian Indonesians in the field of religious tourism. This imagery is similar across different religious affiliations and particularly vibrant in online social media. The imagery challenges perceptions of interreligious divisions and hegemonic mappings of the world, ultimately centralizing the local social environment of people and exhibiting national Indonesian pride.