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

By Harry J. Benda | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
TRIAL AND ERROR: APRIL -- DECEMBER 1942

FOr at least four decades intimate knowledge, derived both from devoted and scientific study and from constant contact with Islamic life in Indonesia, had made of the Netherlands one of the most conscientious and best-informed Western colonial powers controlling the lives of millions of Muslims. Some of the most capable Dutchmen ever drawn into colonial administration had been in charge of Islamic affairs in Indonesia. Even though S nouck Hurgronje's successors could not claim to be their master's equals in either erudition or influence, the Advisers of later years were, largely because of circumstances beyond their control, lacking in authority rather than in knowledge and devotion. They had inherited from Snouck the tradition of careful and painstaking study, which entitled them to the, be it grudging, respect of the Indonesian Muslim community.

The Japanese 'discovery' of Islam, by contrast, dates back only to the mid-1920's. It was patently motivated by the expansionist plans of Dai Nippon, since only a few hundred Muslims lived on Japanese territory at that time.1

From the mid-1920'S on, institutes devoted to the study of Islam and periodicals dealing with Islamic problems made their appearance in Japan. In 1933, several quarters started an agitation aimed at making Japan the protector of Islam, and two years later the first group of four students was sent to Arabia and Egypt to prepare themselves for propaganda work.2 At the same time, the Japanese authorities were encouraging Muslim students and teachers, from the Middle East as well as from Asian countries, to come to Japan. A beginning was made with the publication of Arabic-language journals for distribution abroad.

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