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Indonesia Islam
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Organized political party structures promoting Islam were disciplined to the requirements of Pancasila democracy in the PPP, and Islamic organizations, including the Muhammadiyah movement and Nahdatul Ulama, were subjected to government regulations flowing from the Mass Organizations Law. Muslim critics of the regime in the early 1990s claimed that the government policy toward Islam was "colonial" in that it was putting in place in modern Indonesia the advice of the Dutch scholar and adviser to the Netherlands Indies government, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. As an adviser between 1891 and 1904, Snouck Hurgronje advocated tolerating the spiritual aspects of Islam but containing rigorously Islam's political expression. The goal was the same in the colonial period and during the presidencies of both Sukarno and Suharto: to see to it that the business of government and administration remained a secular one. However, Islam could not be fully "depoliticized." The traditional structures for Islamic communication and mobilization, pesantren and mosque, were resistant to external control. Religious teachers, through the dakwah (the vigorous promotion of Islam), still proselytized and propagated guidance and values in the early 1990s that influenced all aspects of human affairs. The "floating masses" were touched by a social and political message couched in terms of Quranic injunctions and the hadith.

    The so-called "hard" dakwah, departing from sermons and texts tightly confined to matters of faith and sharia, was uncompromisingly antigovernment. The illegal texts of Abdul Qadir Djaelani, for example, contrasted Islam, which was the revelation of God, with the Pancasila, which was man-made of Javanese mysticism. The Islamists (often referred to as Islamic fundamentalists) called for the people to die as martyrs in a "struggle until Islam rules." This call, for the government, was incitement to "extremism of the right," subversion, and terrorism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, security officials warned against the revival of Darul Islam in the guise of a Komando Jihad (Holy War Command). Isolated acts of violence, including, in early 1981, the hijacking of a Garuda Indonesian Airways DC-9, gave credence to these alerts. This unrest also was the context in which the government viewed the Tanjung Priok affair. The government reaction to radical Islamic provocations was unyielding: arrest and jail.

    The followers of the "hard" dakwah were a minority within a minority in 1992. Although Islamists might be disaffected with the state, the goal of urban, middle-class Muslims, who shared in the benefits of government economic policies and who were relatively untouched by the preaching of rural Muslim teachers, was not to overthrow the regime. They wanted to transform the regime from within to make its acts conform more with Islamic values--a focus then that was not on the state itself but on policies and practices that were offensive. The issues that spurred middle-class Muslims on included not just the persistent Muslim complaints about secularization, Christianization, and moral decline, but also contemporary political grievances about the inequitable distribution of income, concentration of wealth and power in the hands of Chinese Indonesians to the detriment of indigenous (pribumi--see Glossary) entrepreneurship, corruption, and the role of the president's immediate family. These kinds of issues cut across religious boundaries and united moderate middle-class Muslims with more secular middle-class critics, both civilian and military.

    The president had indirectly addressed complaints about a skewing of economic rewards to Chinese Indonesian enterprises by backing deregulation, warning against flaunting wealth, and appealing for companies to allow worker cooperatives to purchase up to 25 percent of equity shares. This last proposal, made in 1990, despite questions about its economic soundness, had a firm basis in the 1945 constitution, Indonesian economic history, and populist rhetoric.

    A more complicated problem was the political access the president's six children had to state contracting agencies. Their monopoly enterprises, influence brokering, and linkages to Chinese Indonesian entrepreneurs made the children major players in the Indonesian economy. Leaving aside the question of whether their activities facilitated development or hindered it, their highly visible role with the underlying suspicion of favoritism, political extortion, and corruption, had a corrosive impact on Suharto's own image. The father defended the children. Domestic criticism was banned in the media, and foreign discussions resulted in periodic censorship of certain editions of the Sydney Morning Herald, the International Herald Tribune, and the Far Eastern Economic Review. It was even suggested by some local observers that the president's desire to protect his children from a future government's reprisals energized his succession agenda.

    Through reward and cooptation, the government won the allegiance of a broad sector of the Muslim elite, the most general indicator of which was election results showing no increase in the appeal of Muslim political parties. At the same time, thoughtful Islamic strategists, such as Nahdatul Ulama's Abdurrahman Wahid, felt that Islamization would come from inside the New Order rather than from external confrontation. The Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) was formed in December 1990, uniting a broad spectrum of leading Muslim academics and government figures (but with the noticeable absence of Abdurrahman Wahid). ICMI's founding had the overt support of Suharto and suggested that the president wished to deepen his political links to the Muslim constituency independently of the PPP and Nahdatul Ulama. This organizational development also raised the question of where ABRI stood in a constellation of forces that saw the president apparently seeking balance among Golkar, Islam, and ABRI.

    Data as of November 1992

    NOTE: The information regarding Indonesia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Indonesia Islam information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Indonesia Islam should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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