AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 358

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Session 358: Various Faces of Political Islam in Democratic Indonesia: Origins, Processes, and Consequences

Organizer: Kikue Hamayotsu, Northern Illinois University, USA

Discussant: Robin Bush, RTI International, Singapore

After the recent legislative elections in April 2009, many observers have come to the conclusion that the influence of political Islam is on the decline in Indonesian Politics. Is it a valid conclusion? Is the role of political Islam negligible in the process of democratic consolidation? What does the case of Indonesia tell us about the future of political Islam in the liberalizing Muslim world? This panel collectively refutes “the end of political Islam” proposition. It proposes that such proposition is not only misleading, but also inhospitable to adequately understand the function and future of religion in general and political Islam in particular in the process of democratic consolidation. We will show that the religion—in the form of organization, movement, and/or ideology—remains a pivotal force in defining and conditioning political and institutional developments, state-society relations, as well as democratic consolidation in Indonesia’s nascent democracy. In the process, some elements of political Islam exhibit a great deal of flexibility, vitality and innovation to redefine and revitalize its function in the changing historical and institutional context. It is the various levels of organizational and ideological flexibility and vitality of religious forces that all of our papers wish to elucidate. We do so by drawing upon original data and new methods while engaging with broader debates. The panel covers a range of interconnected issues that would underscore origins, processes and consequences of particular patterns of Islam-politics relations: state-Islam relations in a historical institutionalist perspective; ideological and organizational innovations of Islamist parties; changing patterns of political participation by mass religious organizations. Moreover, we will address new theoretical, conceptual and empirical issues in rethinking the future of political Islam in Indonesian democracy and beyond.

The decline of Traditionalist Muslim Party in Indonesia
Yon Machmudi, University of Indonesia, Indonesia

The last general election in 2009 has showed an interesting trend regarding the existence of political Islam in Indonesia. It indicates the decline of old political Islam groups but gives arise to a new political. It is surprisingly that a traditionalist Muslim based party, the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) lost dramatically its seats in the Indonesia National Parliament. The decline of a party that affiliated with NU has brought speculation about the future of NU based party in the future. The modernization pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Indonesia that affiliate with NU become main problem of the detachment of NU stronghold from it political wing, PKB. Pesantren has introduced a new educational system that widen the relationship between kyai and its santri, the implementation of student dormitories within pesantren has also contributed to isolated students from kyais direct supervisions. In addition the autonomous nature of NU kyais has prevented the central leadership of NU to unite their voice in supporting one political party.

Islam for All? Electoral Changes and Religious Party Mobilization in Democratic Indonesia
Kikue Hamayotsu, Northern Illinois University, USA

Since its inception in 1998, the most prominent Islamist party in democratic Indonesia, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), has rapidly grown in middle- and working-class constituencies around urban cities such as Jakarta and Depok. In more recent years, however, PKS has managed to extend its grassroots support base in rural areas in outer regions such as East Java and Central Java. In the 2009 legislative elections, PKS gained more votes and parliamentary seats in those rural regions overall despite drastic electoral system changes that have weaken organizational cohesion of other political parties. How can we explain the changing patterns of Islamist expansion across regions? Is it explained, as conventionally argued, by the party’s continuous ideological adjustment to make the party more open and plural? This paper argues that PKS’s successful expansion in rural areas is explained by its organizational structures that allow decentralized collective decision-making within the highly institutionalized party organization. It also suggests that PKS’s recent decision to open up the party membership to non-Muslims have to do with its need to fulfill increasing political aspirations of party cadres in those rural areas as much as its desire to change its image as an extreme and exclusive party in the past.

Integrated Islamic Education, Political Islam and Indonesian Democracy
Suzaina Kadir, National University of Singapore, Singapore

This paper analyzes the growing popularity of the privately-run integrated Islamic School (Sekolah Islam Terpadu) in and around several Indonesian cities. This development is particularly interesting since the model appears, for the first time, to be aligned with faith-based (Christian-based) schools in the United States and Europe. In that sense they boast very modern curriculum and approach, focusing on the development of scientific thinking and mathematics alongside religious values. This is in sharp contrast to the pedagogy and approach in traditional Islamic schools. The growing popularity of these schools is also interesting because many of them are closely aligned to the Islamist political party, PKS. Recruitment of teachers often involves prior cadre-ship within the party. This is no different from the alignment of madrasahs and pesantren with existing religious movements in Indonesia. This paper traces the development of the integrated or modern Islamic elementary and high schools in several key cities and provinces. The paper explores the philosophical/religious foundation of these schools, its integrated curriculum and teaching/learning methods and objectives. It looks at the targeted student population and explores the reasons for its growing popularity vis-à-vis the traditional type of Islamic education in boarding schools and madrasahs. It will consider its implications for the nature and direction of Islamic education in a pluralistic Indonesia. More importantly, it will explore the close connection between these schools and the rise of PKS as an important player on the Indonesian political stage. How do these schools factor in the dynamics of political Islam in democratic Indonesia? To what extent do these schools add to the growing complexity that is political Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim country?

Capitalism, the State, and Civil Islam in Indonesia
Tuong Vu, University of Oregon, USA

Despite an image of contentious Islam in the literature about modern Indonesian politics, the relationship between Islam and the modern Indonesian state has been remarkably collaborative. Historically Islamic political thoughts in Indonesia have been accommodative rather than uncompromising to state demand. At critical moments Islamic activists have showed a strong tendency to drop doctrinal recalcitrance and collaborate with the state. This paper reviews the state-Islam relationship and tries to explain why it has been collaborative. A conventional explanation focuses on the “civil” nature of Indonesian Islam as an unchanging quality inherent in the religion. While acknowledging the importance of this factor, I offer two more nuanced explanations. First, I argue that the collaborative state-Islam relationship originates in the shared support of state and Islamic elites for capitalist development through long periods in Indonesian history. The relationship thus tends to break down when capitalism is under attack, as in the early 1960s. Second, the relationship has benefited from an interventionist state with the power to shape the opportunity structures facing Islamic political activists. The emergence of most radical Islamic movements from Darul Islam in the 1950s to Hizbut Tarir today can be traced to periods of state collapse. These two explanations suggest that Indonesian Islam may be inherently civil but needs a strong state as a precondition. In addition, the history of political Islam in Indonesia cannot be separated from that of capitalism. Civil Islam is a result of capitalist development despite the seemingly incompatibility between the two.

Ideological Adaptability and the Role of Islamic Groups in Indonesia’s Democratization
LaiYee Leong, Southern Methodist University, USA

Indonesia’s major Islamist political party, the Prosperous Justice Party or PKS, over time has downplayed the religious agenda it articulated a decade ago. Today it participates in the pluralist coalition that supports President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Does the PKS’s gradual change suggest democracy promotes cooperation and encourages moderation among Islamists? The answer has important theoretical implications. Indonesia as a case study adds to the growing literature on the determinants of behavior when Islamists participate in government. As scholarship on liberalizing regimes in the Middle East shows, Islamists are capable of cooperating with other political actors. What is less clear are the ways and extent to which they do so, and whether it signifies ideological change. It remains uncertain if democrats have cause to fear Islamist political parties. This paper explores the conditions under which the PKS has come to project a more soft-line Islamist message and join the ruling coalition. It argues that such a move reflects strategic considerations rather than ideological moderation. The PKS’s shift is compared to behavior by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling AK Party in Turkey. I consider tensions within the Islamist movement. At the same time, I examine the changing character of the Indonesian party system. Whereas existing work on Islamist political parties tends to focus on the groups themselves, this paper suggests the political structure is also critical. How other political parties respond to Islamists affects when moderation might take place and shapes how the latter engage with the democratic process.