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Islam and Democracy in Indonesia - PDF

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Islam and democracy are said to be in a relationship fraught with problems as the former, allegedly, does not allow secular law to be put above divine law or accept the legitimacy of worldly authorities. This relationship is less problematic in Indonesia, a democratic Muslim-majority country, the argument goes, due to the syncretic forms of Islam practiced in the archipelago state that are less dogmatic, and hence more conducive to democratic principles. While this is a valuable point, various factors extraneous to 'moderate Indonesian Islam,' such as a fragmented Islamic authority in civil society, a weakly institutionalized party system as well as dynamics triggered by recent institutional reforms all play a role in the continuing insignificance of political Islam in the country. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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									Islam and Democracy in
Indonesia
                                                                         MICHAEL BUEHLER*




                                            I
ABSTRACT
Islam and democracy are said
                                                ndonesia is the largest Muslim-ma-
to be in a relationship fraught                 jority country in the world. Home to
with problems as the former,            approximately 230 million people of which
allegedly, does not allow secular       more than 85% follow Islam, there are almost
law to be put above divine law or
accept the legitimacy of worldly
                                        as many Muslims living in Indonesia as in the
authorities. This relationship is       entire Arab-speaking world combined.1 Sun-
less problematic in Indonesia,          ni Islam is the predominant branch of Islam,
a democratic Muslim-majority            with only around one million Indonesians be-
country, the argument goes, due
to the syncretic forms of Islam
                                        ing Shia. There is a wide array of other forms
practiced in the archipelago state      of Islam, including significant numbers of Sufi
that are less dogmatic, and hence       communities.2 The major fault line, however,
more conducive to democratic            lies between santri who adhere to orthodox
principles. While this is a valuable
point, various factors extraneous
                                        forms of Islam while the abangan practice
to ‘moderate Indonesian Islam,’         more syncretic versions of Islam.3
such as a fragmented Islamic
authority in civil society, a weakly        Indonesia is also the world’s third largest
institutionalized party system          democracy after India and the United States
as well as dynamics triggered           of America. Since the authoritarian regime of
by recent institutional reforms
                                        President Suharto collapsed in 1998, the most
all play a role in the continuing
insignificance of political Islam in    immediately visible change in Indonesian poli-
the country.                            tics has been the implementation of an exten-



                                        * Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies, Weath-
                                        erhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York City,
                                        USA, mb3120@columbia.edu

Insight Turkey Vol. 11 / No. 4 / 2009
pp. 51-63                      
								
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