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Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity

ROBERT PRINGLE was US Ambassador to Mali and postings elsewhere in Africa as well as in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. His experience with Indonesia began with a four-year posting at the US Embassy in Jakarta from 1970 to 1974. He has followed Indonesian history, politics and culture ever since.

Editions Didier Millet (First Published, 2010)
1220 pages including Bibliography and Index


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Product ID: 26218 Subjects: , , Sub-subjects: , ,

Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity is intended as a “primer on Islam in Indonesia” for non-experts, which is home to more Muslims than any other country on earth. Indonesia is also the worlds fourth most populous country and its third-largest genuine democracy. Interest in Indonesian Islam has increased since the events of September 11, 2001, but most people know little about the country and much less about Indonesian Islam. Even those who know something about Indonesia tend to be in the grip of contending stereotypes. The first is that Indonesian Islam is “moderate,” quite different from the frightening Middle Eastern variety. The second is that, notwithstanding the moderation of its Islam, Indonesia is a soft state, at risk of succumbing to a theocratic, extremist, sometimes violent Islamic minority.

To go beyond the stereotypes and make sense of what is happening today, it is necessary to know something about Indonesian society and especially about certain historical events which have great explanatory force. Most readers will be interested primarily in the politics of Islam, and its ability to co-exist with, or even help nurture, a modern democratic state. With that in mind, the book is not about the theology of Islam, except insofar as doctrine relates to political culture, which of course it quite often does.

The first four chapters aim to provide a base-level understanding of the history that has conditioned the development of Islam in Indonesia. The fifth chapter explores aspects of Islamic institutions in Indonesia which
are of particular interest to foreigners, including Islamic law, Islamic education, and two mass organizations unique to the country, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. The final three chapters examine two current topics of paramount importance: first, the sectarian and regional violence that followed the fall of President Suharto in 1998 and seemed to presage the disintegration of Indonesia, and second, the question of whether or not Indonesia’s new democracy is at risk of being subverted or co-opted by an Islamic extremist minority. While the author has tried to make the historical chapters as impartial as possible, his discussion of current and near-current events in the final three chapters reflects his personal opinions as to what can be concluded from the historical record, and—equally important—from the nature of Indonesia’ diversity.

It is a fundamental premise of this book that Indonesian Islam cannot be understood apart from the complexities of Indonesian history and culture. The author has therefore concentrated on national factors which in his view will
continue to be important and in many cases determining. This does not mean that global factors are not also important, but it is the Indonesian element that is least understood outside the country and it is that deficit which this book is designed to address.

Understanding Islam in Indonesia is clear, concise, and engagingly well-written. The author offers a balanced and synthetic analysis, drawing on important works from the field and presenting their arguments in a clear and accessible manner. For these reasons, the book could be usefully adopted in undergraduate courses in political science or Southeast Asian studies. As an introduction rather than a final word, Pringle’s book is a welcome contribution to Indonesian studies and to the study of political Islam.

A Note on Terms and Spelling

1. How Islam Arrived

The Terrain Where Islam Settled
Indonesia’ Hindu-Buddhist Era (Sixth to Sixteenth Centuries)
The Pioneers of Islam
Burgeoning Trade and Religious Globalization
Was There a Race with Christianity?
The Dynamics of Conversion
The Potent Role of Islamic Mysticism
Indonesia on the Eve of Dutch Rule

2. Islam under Dutch and Japanese Rule (1629-1945)

From Dutch Company to Dutch Colony
Islam and Ant+-colonial Warfare
— The Padri War (1821-38)
— The Java War (1825-30)
— The Aceh War (1873-1912)
The Sagacious Advisor: Snouck Hurgronje and Dutch Islamic Policy
Unintended Consequences of Sugar and Prosperity
Nationalism and Reformist Islam
Islam and the Idea of Indonesia
The Final Days of Dutch Rule
Japan Sets the Stage for Independence

3. Sukarno and the Roots of Islamic Marginalization: 1945-1966

Into the Maelstrom
Seven Words that Won) Go Away: the Jakarta Charter
Madiun: Betrayal from the Left (1948)
Darul Islam: Betrayal from the Right (1948-62)
The Election of 1955
The Outer Islands Rebellion (1938)
Failed Coup and Bodies in Rivers: The Trauma of 1965-66
Summing up the Sukarno Era

4. The Suharto Era: Islam Repressed, Islam Resurgent

The Man and his Methods
Early Days: The Repression of Reformist Islam
The Hindu-Buddhist Revival
Economic Growth and Islamic Expansion
Reformist Islam Radicalized
Reformist Muslims and Democracy
The Urbanization of Traditionalist Styles
Faces of Suharto-Era Islam: Four New Players
— Nurcholish Madjid
— Abu Bakar Ba’asyir
— Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur)
— Amien Rais
Suharto and Pancasila
Suharto’ “Greening”: (CMI and the Military
The End of the New Order: Chaos and the Transition to Democracy

5. Islam Organized

Islamic Institutions — the Two Big Ones: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama
The Muslim Educational System in Outline
The Pesantren System
A Garland of Pesantren
— Gontor, the “Modern Pesantren”
— Pabelan and Vocational Education
— Hidayatullah: A Bugis Varian
— Wealthy of Weird: The Strange Case of al-Zaytun
— Pesantren Daarut Tauhid: The Kiai as TV Personality
The Sufi Brotherhoods (Tarekat) and Mysticism
Islamic Authority in Indonesia
Sharia and the Fatwa Phenomenon
Muhammadiyah, NU and the Gender Struggle

6. Communal Conflict and Violent Islamic Extremism

Violent Regional Conflict, 1996-2005
— West and Central Kalimantan 1996-2001
— Maluku and North Maluku 1999-2004
— Central Sulawesi: Poso 1998-2007
Common Causes of Local Conflict
Aceh, East Timor and Papua: Three that Don’t Fit the Pattern
— Aceh
— East Timor
— Papua
Violent Extremism: Laskar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiyah
Why Terrorism Waned

7. Islamic Extremism and Democracy

Intimidation and Vigilante Violence
Extremism by a Thousand Cuts? Local Sharia Law and Stealth Tactics
Ballot Boxes and Pollsters

8. The Resilience of Diversity: A Summing Up

Indonesia’ National Mythology
Javanese Not-Quite-Hegemony
Summing Up

Further Reading on Islam in Indonesia
Indonesian Political Parties

Weight0.494 kg
Dimensions22.6 × 15 × 1.8 cm




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