Survey: Muslim Youth in Indonesia and Malaysia - their Values, Dreams, Ideals

Two German organisations, the Goethe-Institut and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, surveyed the opinions of Indonesian and Malaysian youth in October and November 2010.

"The future of the country – any country – will be shaped by its youth. Youngsters set trends and change societies," they said.

The resulting report, Values, Dreams, Ideals – Muslim Youth in Southeast Asia, provides an insight into both ASEAN countries and a comparison between the two.

In both countries, more than half of the population is less than 30 years old and about one third is younger than 14. In Indonesia, 200 million Muslims – 88% of the population – constitute the largest Muslim population world-wide. In Malaysia, 16 million Muslims account for 60% of the population.

"Far away from Islam’s region of origin, Muslims in these two South East Asian states have their own customs and traditions, distinguishing them culturally and linguistically from Muslims in the Middle East," the report noted.

Indonesian highlights included:
  • Indonesian Muslim youths are optimistic, happy with their lives and see their future positively. They are determined to give their children a better life than their own.
  • However, 91.4% fear losing their jobs and 79% said they are “concerned” and “very concerned” about the threat of terrorism.
  • A plurality of 47.5% say that they are Muslims first in contrast to 40.8% who emphasize on their identity as Indonesians. Only 10.7% of all respondents put their ethnic identity first.
  • More than 90% state that it is important to believe in God and more than 60% that it is important to become a good Muslim.
  • More than 70% have no problem with women taking over leadership in society and only 13.5 % approve of polygamy.
  • On taboo subjects, 52.9% disapprove of alcoholic drinks, 51.2% strongly disapprove of narcotics, 50.7% strongly disapprove of premarital sex, 53.7% frown upon pornographic movies and 54.95% strongly disapprove of gays and lesbians.
  • Almost 90% have a sense of responsibility towards other people. At the same time, they appear very self-involved, ambitious and keen to reach their goals and shape their future independently.
  • The majority have accepted the country’s current political and economic situation – more than 60% think that Indonesia is on the right track.
  • More than 70% think that people have the power to change governments if they do not approve of them and 49% do not think that religious leaders should replace politicians.
Malaysian highlights include:
  • Malaysia’s Muslim youths are not rigorous in fulfilling their religious obligations; while stating that belief in God and becoming a better Muslim are most important in their lives, they rather watch television, listen to music or surf the internet in their leisure-time than go to a mosque.
  • Malaysian Muslim youths are very clear in their preference for Shariah and Hudud law, despite their laxity in carrying out their religious obligations. Over 70% would rather follow Shariah law than the Federal Constitution.
  • Most believe that “a strong man should bring order to our country” although 73.7% believe that people have the power to change a government that they don’t like and 71.4% feel that a good democracy needs opposition parties.
  • More than two thirds are convinced that women could become good leaders of the country.
  • Although 62.4 % regard Osama bin Laden as a freedom fighter, they denounce violence.
  • Almost 85% of young people use the internet, taking youngsters beyond borders and exposing them to different cultures, views and value-systems.
Comparison data

A "surprising finding" is that the majority of Muslim youths in Malaysia and Indonesia agree to the imposition of Hudud punishments: 71% of Malaysians and 50% of Indonesians urge the punishment of cutting off the hand of anyone found guilty as a thief; 92% of Malaysians and 68% of Indonesians support the punishment of whipping of alcohol offenders, while 92.5% of Malaysians and 66% of Indonesians agree on the death penalty for murderers.

All Muslim youths in Indonesia and Malaysia express a strong pro-Muslim worldview when it comes to international politics. "According to them even President Obama of the USA cannot resolve the Muslim problems in the world, such as the Palestinian issue which is very high on their list of concerns. They see the positive side of globalisation as a phenomenon in support of peace and economic prosperity, but they also see the negative impact of globalisation in its destruction of the environment."

An extensive summary of the report with tables can be downloaded in pdf format here.