The Crescent and the Rising Sun: Indonesian Islam under the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945

By Harry J. Benda | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE: INDONESIAN ISLAM IN THE CLOSING YEARS OF DUTCH RULE

The drastic changes which the Indonesian social, religious and political scene had undergone in the brief span of a quarter- century rendered the tasks of colonial administration for more complex than they had been in the days of Snouck Hurgronje's Adviscrship in the Indies. The menacing, yet in essence rela­tively simple, problems posed by Muslim 'fanaticism' during the nineteenth century had given way to the bewildering issues posited by the rise of two entirely new Indonesian elite groups, one Western-influenced, the other Islamic-oriented. Both groups seemed to steer Indonesian developments away from the path envisioned by the originators of the Ethical Policy; both were impatiently clamoring for social if not political prominence at the expense of the traditional Indonesian elite, whose position had been profoundly eroded by the cumulative effects of Western economic forces and political control, and more recently by the Ethical Policy itself.

Indeed, the emergence of these new elites seemed to threaten the very foundation of Dutch colonial rule in the archipelago. The Java War, ulama-led village unrest, and even the Acheh War seemed to pale into insignificance compared to the turbulent upsurge of the Sarekat Iskm in the years during and immediately following the first world war, culminating in the explosive uprisings, under Communist leadership, which shook parts of Western Java and Western Sumatra in the mid-1920's.

Snouck Hurgronje's warning that, in the absence of a concerted Dutch policy of association, forces inimical to the Netherlands might make themselves masters of the colony's political destiny seemed to be borne out by these ominous happenings.

Though the revolts had taken the authorities by surprise, they

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