Nahdlatul Ulama’s “Funny Brigade”: Piety, Satire, and Indonesian Online Divides

Author(s) James Bourk Hoesterey
Contact James B. Hoesterey, Emory University, 537 South Kilgo Circle NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 15, Iss. 1, 2021, pp. 85-118
Published June 30, 2021
Type Article
Abstract Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), arrived relatively late on the Islamic social media scene. By the time Nahdlatul Ulama leadership recognized and commissioned the need for online advocacy, a generation of young media-savvy preachers had already stoked the embers of sectarian divides and cast suspicion on those deemed secular or liberal. Even within Nahdlatul Ulama, a sprawling network of religious leaders and Islamic schools mostly in Central and East Java, the rise of social media revealed internal schisms about the meaning of Islam and the future politics of NU. By 2015, some Nahdlatul Ulama members began to speak in the name of or a NU Straight Brigade (NU Garis Lurus) that proclaimed to return Nahdlatul Ulama to its original roots purportedly betrayed by current NU leadership. In response, a diverse group of NU youth – notorious for a love of humor – formed the NU Funny Brigade (NU Garis Lucu), a social media community that used satire and humor to temper the accusations of NU Garis Lucu and to mobilize social media as a uniting force within Nahdlatul Ulama and Indonesia more broadly. In this article, I examine the interplay between these two Nahdlatul Ulama communities, paying special attention to how social media both reveals fragments and fault lines, while also providing online space to bridge doubts and divides.
Keywords social media, Islam, religious authority, Indonesia, satire, subjectivity