Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 October 2019
An increasing number of reports and studies on offenses against religious minorities has been published in Indonesia since the country's democratic transition in 1998. While the literature on intolerance unveils the young democracy's institutional problems which have undermined and eroded minority rights, such as direct elections and the lack of judicial independence, it leaves many critical questions to address. Although the number of victims of religious intolerance increased, in the same institutional settings, a large number of religious minorities has managed to prevent escalating violence and avoid being targeted by intolerant groups. Under what circumstances and how do minorities deter attacks in a time of heightened tension against them under a democratic system that has afforded them little protection? This article sheds light on the case of the Shi'a who suffered a series of attacks in Sampang, Madura in the East Java province, but have since gradually developed resilience. A series of attacks in Sampang in 2011–12 was one of the most destructive events against religious minorities in Indonesia. Examining the Sampang incidents, this article argues that if the religious minority can develop a cohesive network with elements of the majority capable of mobilising state power, it would build a safety net preventing attacks by intolerant groups. Thus, this article aims to develop our understanding of how religious minorities address violence caused by hostile socio-political forces and adapt to Indonesia's democracy.