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

By Harry J. Benda | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
INDONESIAN ISLAM AND THE SPIRIT OF DAI NIPPON

The series of rapid Japanese victories in Southeast Asia, culminating in the lightning conquest of Java, had doubtless made a deep impression on most Indonesian leaders. Nippon's military might and the deadly blow it had struck at Western colonialism thus became two of the most important factors in the thinking of the Indonesian people, especially during the first two years of the Japanese occupation.

While it is difficult to gauge the depth and sincerity of pro- Japanese sentiment, fostered by a combination of admiration and fear, it would be misleading to underestimate its importance, particularly among the younger generation undergoing a new and dynamic experience. Post-occupation developments have, as we know, often shown the strength of this Japanese legacy. Again, the imprint of the Japanese conquest on many, if not most, members of the various Indonesian elite-groups should not be minimized. The great majority of these leaders lacked sophistication and political experience and were thus almost totally unprepared for the sudden change of colonial rulers. The negative role assigned to them under Dutch rule had only equipped them with the weapons of criticism, while they had been denied the indispensable schooling which only political responsibility could have provided.

These factors may, partly at least, account for the phenomenon of Indonesian 'collaboration' in which, as far as the writer can judge, most members of the political, administrative, and Islamic elites participated -- be it with varying degrees of conviction and enthusiasm. It is probable that the Japanese were more successful among the often rootless, Western- educated intellectuals actively engaged in politics than they

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