Islam in Indonesian Foreign Policy

Islam in Indonesian Foreign Policy

Islam in Indonesian Foreign Policy

Islam in Indonesian Foreign Policy

Synopsis

This companion volume to the highly successful 'Islam in Malaysian Foreign Policy explores the extent to which foreign policy in the world's largest Muslim nation has been influenced by Islamic considerations.

Excerpt

As home to more than 180 million Muslims, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Given that reality, one might assume that Islam is bound to play a significant, if not dominant, role in the country’s politics and policy-making throughout its post-colonial history. However, a closer examination of the political history of post-independent Indonesia reveals that this was not the case. Tension in the relationship between religion and the state had been evident since the state-formation process prior to the declaration of independence in mid-1945, during which the founders of the Republic were engaged in an intense debate on the basis of the state. the debate reflects deep-seated ideological and political divisions between kebangsaan groups (secular nationalist) who preferred a non-theocratic form of the state and the Islamic group who argued for an Islamic state. the independence was declared in August 1945 with a “compromise” between the two groups that the new Republic would take neither secular nor theocratic as its identity; it would be a state based on the ideology of Pancasila (Five Principles) that ensures an equal treatment of all religions.

Such a compromise, however, did not solve the problem of state identity. On the contrary, it reinforced the dilemma of dual identity that any government in Indonesia has to take into account in the policy-making process. On the one hand, the majority of its population are Muslims. This reality cannot be ignored by the state, because Islam serves as a source of values and norms which guides the behaviour and life of the society. Islam has also been central to social and political legitimisation within the society. On the other hand, the reality of religious pluralism serves as an important constraint which prevents the government from defining the state in terms of one religion. Such a theocratic identity would contradict the ideals of Indonesia’s unity as a nation. Therefore, any government in Indonesia is obliged to move beyond strict secularism by taking into account the Muslim’s aspirations but short of moving towards the establishment of an Islamic state. This complex political reality requires a delicate management of state affairs.

That delicate management of dual identity dilemma is also extended to the field of foreign policy. Here, the nature of Indonesia as a non-theocratic state . . .

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