Why more Indonesian teens are giving up dating

IT WAS LOVE at first like. When Natta Reza, a dashing Indonesian busker, discovered the young woman’s account on Instagram, he knew he’d found the one. He liked one of her posts, and they started chatting. Within hours he had proposed via an Instagram message. They married soon after, in February 2017. 

Since then Mr Natta and his wife, Wardah Maulina, have become celebrities on Instagram. They are the poster couple for a social movement sweeping Indonesia, home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. Its champions encourage single Muslims to renounce dating, lest they succumb to the temptations of premarital sex, which is barred by Islamic law. Better to marry young, and swiftly, and leave the matchmaking to a parent, cleric or the Islamic internet. Islam in Indonesia has traditionally been a moderate affair. Yet the eagerness with which teenage and millennial Muslims have embraced abstinence shows how a purist strain of the faith has tightened its grip.

It all began five years ago in a dorm room in a provincial Javanese city. La Ode Munafar was worried about his peers and the state of their souls. Many young Indonesians have no problem with dating, or fooling around; perhaps two-fifths of unmarried adolescents have had sex. So Mr Ode leapt into action. He started an organisation called Indonesia Tanpa...

Read More