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Indonesia is ranked fourth in the world among the most populous Muslim nations. The spread of Muslim faith in Indonesia can be graded as “moderate” with the country being strategically positioned along the sea lines, which appropriately connect to the energy resources of the Middle East (Vaughn, 2009).
Many peace consultants look at Indonesia as being the most critical partner in waging a struggle against radical Islamist Militants in South East Asia. Over time, Indonesia has continued to persue democracy and develop the realms of civil society and law under new reforms by the current president, Susilo. Nevertheless, there exist unhealed wounds caused by the abuse of human rights with the major culprit’s being the military under the reign of former President Suharto for three decades.
Islam Identity in Indonesia: The escapade
Indonesia started as a secular state and managed to survive as one (Paris and Schwarz, 1999). This is because Islam in Indonesia has integrated or adapted with ancient local customs and beliefs that emanate from a moderate and benign version of Islam. The majority of Muslims in Indonesia are traditionalists; a tendency that incorporates strong elements of Sufi mysticism and pre-Islamic Javanese traditions (Haseman and Rabasa, 2002).
They follow the local based law called “adat” which takes precedence over strict Islamic custom (Gocher and Vatikiotis, 2006). Additionally, Indonesia originally faced a peaceful spread of Islam that was not accompanied by force; instead, winds of Islamic reform had reached Indonesia from the Middle East gracefully uniting with the local beliefs (Paris and Schwarz, 1999). This is why rigid adherence to Islamic shariah law is found to be an unfruitful venture due to the strong mismatching foundations.
During the early part of the twentieth century two different views of Islam in Indonesia started to emerge that caused a split emerged between the modernists and the more conservatives (Paris and Schwarz 1999). The modernist could not accept the integration of Islam with local customs, but demanded that Javanese Islam be purged of its non-Islamic superstitions.
This division was greatly highlighted during the early years of Indonesia’s independence. This occurrence shows that even with the different ideologists about Islam that exist within Islam, there is an internal fight on superiority; each strain would want others to declare them as the true faith of Muslim.
There exists the most basic fact here: Indonesia as a Muslim country has been faced with a lot of political unrest over time, with Muslim being the salient factor Indonesian Politics (Bull and Woodward, 2009). Nevertheless, after the democratic transition, many Islamist groups both in Indonesia and the Middle East have risen up and gotten very active, some being violent and others with an approach of Islam social norms.
The irony in this happening is that Islamist groups that would otherwise have been outlawed by today’s democratic rule are being allowed to exist as active political players. The most worrying issue as far as a conflict in the minds of Muslim radicals is concerned is that war cannot be won without being fought (Peters, 2002). The idea here is that this tiff has spread to a national level, eminent before an international platform.
Transnational terrorism was made active mostly after the occurrences of September 11. That very date has since then left an unforgettable mark on the whole world. Relations between different states faced a lot of tiffs with little or no benign subsequent relations whatsoever (Kadir, 2002). September 11 twisted the idea of international relations to take another course; there became a general picture of the abundance of a grudge between the extremist Islam and the Liberal, capitalist and the Christian West.
Kadir (2002) explains that after the tragic occurrence, leaders of the Islamic communities in Indonesia distanced themselves from the radical Muslim faiths that would encourage terrorism, terming them as deviant faiths. The leaders of Muslim faith and the government leaders in Indonesia and South East Asia refuted to have such radical versions of Islam to spread to their countries. Nonetheless, their hopes can be seen as denial of the past political Muslim experiences of the country.
This is basically because, Indonesia faced many years of Islamist military oppression where violence was clear and pronounced (Vaugh, 2009). In the same case, it is the same occurrences, which left nearly 500, 000 Indonesian dead during the “new order” rule of President Suharto. The association of such actions with radical Muslim faith have resulted to the Indonesian Muslim leaders to have a distant attitude towards Radical Muslim faith.
On the other hand, there exists a number of Radical or “fundamentalist” Muslims within Indonesia especially during periods of both Sukarno and Suharto where several attempts to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia were made (Indonesia Backgrounder, 2004). Their jubilance has been given so much media attention in recent years, which has created a misconception that Indonesian Islam, is radical.
According to Fox (2004), there arose a new Islamic movement called “Hitbut Tahrir” that had foundations outside Indonesia. This group sought to revamp and attain the inclusion of global fundamentality in the Indonesian national landscape, against nationalism and state power (Fox, 2004). This notion has overshadowed the truth about Indonesian Islam, which is actually accommodating and moderate as compared to other fundamentalist Muslim traits (Jones, 2007).
Indonesia is composed of a diverse set of communities spread across thousands of islands. It is because of this that during the early years, the focus of the government was to strengthen nationalism and independence. It was during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia that Islam officially recognized (Gocher and Vatikiotis, 2006). This was a first step that would ensure future pressure on the government to accommodate Islamic political aspirations.
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There eventually arose two major opposing Islamic parties (Masjumi and Hisbullah), which always had heated constitutional debates about the form that new Indonesia state was to take.
On one hand, the Masjumi demanded that Islam be declared the state religion, while other groups demanded for the adoption of an Islamic state that is purely based on the Sharia law (Marshall, 2005). It was here that the government decided to marginalize those advocating the movement for an Islamic state in Indonesia because there was fear that the idea of an Islamic state would destroy Indonesia even before Independence (Paris and Schwarz, 1999).
According to Geocher and Vatikiotis (2006), so as to tone-down the tension between the government and the Muslim community, there was an introduced state philosophy which insisted that the state was to be based on a single belief of a “one supreme God”.
Additionally, it was also made clear that God applied not specifically only to Islam, but rather of the five known official religions: Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholic and Islam (Marshall, 2005). This unclear idea about the superiority and clarity of Islam created high tension between the Muslim community and the new independent government, of which it had helped install during the fight for independence.
During the “New Order” regime, Islam was greatly marginalized through the oppressive centralized government at the time. The new regime was determined to establish the military as the primary broker in Indonesia.
With the defeat of the communists, Muslims groups expected to be rewarded for helping the army, instead the “New Order” acted promptly to rollback abuse to the camp of the Muslims (Gocher and Vatikiotis, 2006). The Muslim were the only religious group left who had the numbers and organizational strength to compete for power with the army.
Consequent events saw Suharto acting quickly to more drastically kill the Influence of Islamic idioms in to the government policies (Paris and Schwarz, 1999). In 1973, Suharto forced the merger of Muslim groups, as an attempt to kill the upcoming unrest.
As a result, Islamists viewed this as a potential policy that sought to view Islam as lacking the viability to influence the government policies or participate it Indonesia’s political landscape (Marshall, 2005). This was followed by an even greater blow to Muslim interests; the government’s decision to require all political and social organizations to adopt “Pancasila” as their sole ideological basis.
There was a general belief by the Muslims that Pancasila sought to place man over “Allah” and that the idea was heretical (Paris and Schwarz, 1999). Gocher and Vatikiotis, (2006) summed up the New Order’s primary social achievement; Delivering Indonesia from the tangles of the vigorous tides that had sweeping the world as from the late 1970s. Nevertheless, there are critics who believe that the attempt the curb Islam in Indonesia, has made Indonesia Islamic.
There are a number of forces for Islamic revivalism that has re-introduced debates on whether or not Indonesia should be an Islamic state. First, international influences from Islamic revolutions in countries like Iran have spurred up Indonesian interest in Islam (Paris and Schwarz, 1999).
Additionally, the spread of Islam in campuses and the growing Islamic intellectual influences on the attitudes towards national, social and economic developments have directed such views on the basis of Islam. This force to Islamic revivalism were especially evident in the younger generation, who are seen to be more vigilant in making Muslim faith to be more applicable to life in the modern world than it already is.
Lastly, political dynamics where Suharto was losing his power base as he encountered greater opposition within the ranks of the military; occurrences that twisted his arm and got him to break-ice and coincide with the Muslim groups so as to ensure that the relationship with the military stayed alive.
The most alarming thing about this whole Muslim revival issue is that, on the occurrence of the Asian crisis in the late 1997, there was no shift. More concern and precedence was given to the reviving of relations with the Muslims. This event lead to the fall of the “New order” regime that eventually saw Suharto’s thirty two years of rule come to an end. The result was a major power gap that was space enough for the Radical Islamists to step in (Marshall, 2005).
According to Marshall (2005) the unexpected occurrence has brought about the resurgence of earlier Islamists ideologies and aspirations. More critical is the drastic proclamation of Indonesia as a state of Islamic religion as a defiance to Suharto’s Pancasila regime.
This is proven by attempts by Muslim groups to reintroduce the “Jakarta Charter” which would allow the application of shariah law and transform Indonesia into an Islamic state. For now, they have been kept democratically at bay as the “People’s Consultative Assembly” avoided a direct vote on the issue, rebuffing the Islamic parties in favor of maintaining the original, more pluralist phrasing.
Although the New Order has made it compulsory in the past, a number of parties have recently adopted Islam as their ideological basis instead of Pancasila. Increased freedoms in the post-Suharto period have radical strains of Muslim groups after years of being marginalized politically and socially.
There has also been increase infiltration by radical international Islamist groups seeking to spread their beliefs into Indonesia. The traditional threat of shariah law in Indonesia is now back stronger than ever, and it is important to further strengthen democratic elements among mainstream Indonesian Muslims.
Attempts to solve the Conflict
There are basically three models of government that Indonesia can preside in; a democratic regime, a religious regime, and a democratic religious government. These different models lie in the ancient argument between the compatibility of democracy and political Islam (Berger, 1999).
The traditional school of thought holds that democracy and political Islam are not compatible. It is a radical belief, that the “institutionalization of shura and ijma provides the state, which expresses the general will, with a normative role in making basic choices in people’s lives” (Safi, 2003).
The idea that the state is now responsible for our salvation is now brought about as a result. As Safi (2003), explains “individual religiosity is transformed by the radicals into a communal public will, itself transformed into state control, both moral and political. This model involves the implementation of Shariah law and the transformation of an Islamic state.
Scholars argue that this model is inherently inconsistent with the divine sources as Islam can only be understood through human reason; “the institution that emerges from that combination is not a theocratic state” (Berger 1999). This is an absolute model that demands exclusivity which stops short of a pluralistic understanding of Islam.
It is the revisionist school of thought that believes that democracy and Islam are only compatible in an oppressive or despotic form of government. This is happens because in most countries in the Muslim world, democracy is only practiced as the giver of proper legality (Safi, 2003).
So while these countries have democratic institutions, in reality none of these processes is really observed. This was evident in the New Order regime, where Suharto was at the apex of politics in Indonesia. It is in fact these forms of regimes that push people away from such institutions to a more radical form of a complete unity between state and religion; an Islamic state.
The post-revisionist school of thought now holds that there are in fact two different ways to articulate Islam and democratic regime forms without transforming into an Islamic state. This view holds that the relationship between Islam and politics was “never premised on the so-called Islamic state or the comprehensive application of the Sharia” (Berger, 1999).
It rejects exclusive reliance on the religious laws in order to confirm whether or not democratic religiosity is wrong (Sadri, Sadri and Soroush, 2002). This school of thought believes that the underlying choice should be made based on the society; because in a religious society an innocently secular government would be against democracy (Sadri, Sadri and Soroush, 2002).
This school of thought, believes that the success of each models depend on whether the majority is a secular or a religious one. According to Berger (1999), the former believes in the European way of keeping political authority at bay from Islam while the latter calls for clarify the relations between Muslim and politics instead of either commenting the unity or totally fragmenting them.
The first model believes in a secular democratic regime, whereby there is a clear separation between religion and the state. This is a valid model basically because many people believe that a democratic religious government will lack the humility to be accountable to people (Sadri, Sadri and Soroush, 2002).
According to Berger (1999), Oppositions to the first model claim that “advocates of secularism will appear to be calling on their own societies to abandon their Islamic cultural and religious foundations.” They also believe that secularism came to “Islamic societies in the dubious company of Western colonialism and post-colonial hegemony.” (Berger 1999).
On the other hand, the second model demands the clarification and specification of the relationship between Islam and political authority on the basis of an Islamic approach to secularism. In this model, the “protection of basic human rights, especially freedom of belief, expression, and association, is an Islamic imperative and not merely a requirement of international treaties.” (Berger 1999)
One cannot forget that in democratic societies, religious tolerance is practiced, as “the path of examined religiosity is more open and inviting” (Sadri, Sadi and Soroush, 2002). Either way, one must understand that in order for both these models to work, democracy cannot adjust to religious understanding; it is religious understanding that should adjust itself to democracy.
Beyond the obvious
The description of constant unrests in Indonesia has always been rotating around one issue: Muslim religion. As stated earlier, the problem from a single religious unit has grown to be the most difficult puzzle that not even the smartest person in the country with his well thought- out and profound intelligent ideas can solve. This bid dilemma calls for a more rationalized, out of the norm idea so as to solve the rationalized and unprecedented turmoil that lingers in the lives of the world’s most populous Muslim country.
I suggest that is time for us to change gears and look at the issue with an open mind; Indonesia as a country is in deep trouble as far as National democracy is concerned and, the USA is the world’s strongest country as far as democracy, economy and internal liberty is concerned. I the itching query about this should be: what does the USA have to with Indonesia? My idea is not at all based on the lines of Indonesia having to solicit for military assistance or any other donations of some kind from the world’s strongest country, no.
If we take another direction and look at the current president to the United Sates of America, president Obama, we will discover that his connection to Indonesia is deep! As a matter of fact, Barack spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and, yes he was born to an Indonesian mother. Needless to mention, he previously had an Indonesian name; Barry Soetero. I think Barry Soetero was the guardian angel given to Indonesia so as to bring its deepest problems to an end.
It is a fact that President Obama is also known as “Hussein”. This tells us that he has a Muslim background. Both Barry Soetero and Indonesia need not to be told that there is a clear indication of an easy way to solve the problem here.
President Barack Hussein Obama is of an Indonesian Background. He also has a Muslim background. Currently is the president of the World’s strongest country ruling without any problems arising from religious clashes. Barack is a modernized Muslim ruling in a country with no Muslim backgrounds.
President Barack Obama should therefore finish his term in the USA, then head back to his roots, apply for citizenship of which I am pretty sure he will get basing on his current friendly relations with Indonesia. Ultimately, he should plunge himself in to the Indonesian political landscape and vie for presidency.
Basing on his roots being from Indonesia and him having a Muslim background coupled with good speech and a likable character he should win. Eventually o attainting presidency, he should channel American ideas that will help Indonesia attain a “super-power level” of democracy.
In this regard, Muslim will be a peaceful religion, as peaceful as a second middle name (Hussein). The Islamic Identity in Indonesia will therefore have gotten its place without any bloodshed, and with the most suited ambassador of them all.
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