Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Philanthropy and "Muslim Citizenship" in Post-Suharto Indonesia

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Philanthropy and "Muslim Citizenship" in Post-Suharto Indonesia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Welfare provision in a nation-state era has become an interesting issue to investigate. In many developing countries, economic growth is often hindered by an inadequacy of a reliable welfare system to benefit society at large. Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia, which is inhabited by more than 250 million people, seems to have suffered from such an inadequacy. After the fall of Suharto in the late 1990s, Indonesia recovered from the financial and political crises and then started experiencing considerable economic growth and democratization. Nevertheless, an adequate welfare system that can reach all parts of society remains hard to find, despite the increased economic growth in the past 10 years. The public does not easily accept Indonesian government statistics showing a decrease in the number of people living below the poverty line. As such, statistical reports do not stop civic organizations from acting as non-state welfare providers by trying to provide aid for particular segments of society unreachable by state welfare agencies.

In this increasingly democratic country, civic organizations with different social, religious, and political orientations have flourished. In post-New Order Indonesia, civil society organizations have appeared publicly in different ways: as NGOs focusing on community development projects (Sinaga 1995; Hadiwinata 2003), as ethnic-based mass organizations supporting political institutions (Aspinall 2011), and as religion-based paramilitary groups focusing on the imposition of religiously inspired public norms (Hasan 2002; Jahroni 2004). Others have appeared as voluntary welfare associations attempting to offer an alternative to the state's role in fulfilling social needs. These types of groups have had a massive presence in the public sphere. One may argue that such a lively civic engagement in the public sphere can lead society to the achievement of democratic values, in a way comparable to what happened in the New Order era. While this assumption may be true in a certain context, the increasing participation of society in Indonesia's political sphere may also lead to other consequences that are not necessarily suitable for democratic values. Corruption, collusion, clientelism, new authoritarian culture, predatory political groupings, social disparity, and economic inequality are examples of how civil society in a democratic era is still "burdened" by undemocratic behavior (Aspinall and Van Klinken 2011).

This paper examines the roles of Muslim volunteer organizations-which are referred to as Islamic philanthropic associations-in shaping the nature of democratic culture in Indonesia and analyzes their contribution to the creation of a just society. Studies suggest that in the past three decades Islamic philanthropic associations in Indonesia have had a vibrant public presence, more than ever before. They have actively engaged in various types of social projects to cater for the poor, as well as had a profound impact on Muslim discourse on welfare issues (Fauzia 2013; Latief 2014; Retsikas 2014). The objectives of Islamic philanthropic organizations, as reflected in their organizational mission, include fostering social justice and bettering the welfare of society. In practice, Islamic philanthropic organizations provide aid for those in need, including low-income families, orphans, disaster victims, and refugees in city slums and disaster-affected areas. Given the wide range of Islamic philanthropic activism in Indonesia, this paper examines Muslims' understanding of citizenship and how they interpret people's rights and the state's responsibility by analyzing two cases. The first case concerns the role of Islamic philanthropic organizations in validating the rights of the poor. The second is about how Islamic philanthropic organizations define the rights of underprivileged minority groups, including Shi'a and Ahmadiyya communities, and whether or not these groups deserve assistance from their fellow Muslims. …

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