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Islam and Democracy in Indonesia
Tolerance without Liberalism


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Part of Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics

  • Date Published: March 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107548039

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About the Authors
  • Indonesia's Islamic organizations sustain the country's thriving civil society, democracy, and reputation for tolerance amid diversity. Yet scholars poorly understand how these organizations envision the accommodation of religious difference. What does tolerance mean to the world's largest Islamic organizations? What are the implications for democracy in Indonesia and the broader Muslim world? Jeremy Menchik argues that answering these questions requires decoupling tolerance from liberalism and investigating the historical and political conditions that engender democratic values. Drawing on archival documents, ethnographic observation, comparative political theory, and an original survey, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia demonstrates that Indonesia's Muslim leaders favor a democracy in which individual rights and group-differentiated rights converge within a system of legal pluralism, a vision at odds with American-style secular government but common in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

    • Challenges the assumption that liberal modes of tolerance are necessary for making democracy work
    • Instead of asking whether Islam is compatible with democracy, it investigates the more important question: what kind of democracy do Muslims want?
    • Draws on twenty-four months of field research in Indonesia, including archival research, ethnographic observation and an original survey
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    • Winner, 2017 Religion and International Relations Book Award, Religion and International Relations Section, International Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The world's largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia's success at transitioning to democracy has perplexed students of comparative Muslim politics - as has the tendency for Indonesian democracy to show a decidedly non-liberal attitude toward matters of religious pluralism. In this richly researched and elegantly argued book, Jeremy Menchik explains how both phenomena have been possible. In so doing, he also offers a study of great importance, not just to Indonesianists, but to scholars and readers interested in the prospects for democracy in the broader Muslim world.' Robert Hefner, Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs, Boston University

    'At a time when calls for tolerance usually impugn religion and imply the secular, political scientist Jeremy Menchik proposes an original vision of democracy that includes and is even grounded in religion - godly nationalism, he calls it. To make his case, he turns to Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic democracy, where he conducted tireless research that he presents here with assertive vivacity and intellectual versatility. Ranging across political theory, sociology, religious studies, and political science, the product is a major contribution to scholarship on religion and politics.' Daniel Philpott, Director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

    'Jeremy Menchik's thought-provoking and carefully crafted study examines the complex and politically productive role of Islamic organizations in the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy. He challenges the notion that liberal modes of tolerance are a sine qua non of democratization. This book opens new possibilities for the study of religion, governance, politics, and power in a world than can be neither dominated nor defined by Euro-American history and experience.' Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Northwestern University, Illinois

    'Brilliant! This is by far the best book on the complex relationships between the state and the three major Islamic civil-society organizations in Indonesia. It is a conceptual and empirical tour de force, integrating political science, anthropology and history.' Alfred Stepan, Wallace Sayre Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, New York

    'Menchik's illumination of an alternative to the Rawlsian vision of secular-liberal democracy operating in Indonesia challenges long held assumptions that place religion on the fringes of political science. He provides a different way of conceptualizing religion and politics that is productive for not only the field of political science, but also religious studies, area studies, Islamic studies, and Indonesian studies. His notions of godly nationalism and communal tolerance deserve further analysis and inclusion in other contexts outside of Indonesia.' James Edmonds, Reading Religion

    'Jeremy Menchik's wonderful new book takes the challenges of doing constructivist political science theory seriously. That is no simple task, since even the best works in the constructivist tradition often avoid the difficult work of actually defining the approach and its implications. What Menchik achieves is not a replacement for the grand theoretical traditions of religion and politics that he criticizes but something more useful. He provides a careful research design that produces a handful of empirically consequential mechanisms explaining why leading Indonesian Islamic organizations are sometimes more or less tolerant of non-Muslim minorities, a credible account of how these mechanisms might generalize to other times and places, and a clear examination of their normative consequences. … [t]his is a book that deserves to be widely read and debated not only by Indonesia scholars but also by all who study religion and democratic politics.' Brandon Kendhammer, Perspectives on Politics

    'His revealing research into local history shows how the diverse experiences of different Muslim organizations have produced a wide range of beliefs about religious tolerance and even about what a belief system has to look like in order to be counted as a religion.' Andrew Nathan, Foreign Affairs

    'This line of argumentation is invigorating, but what makes it convincing - and a joy to read - is the richness of the data Menchik draws from and the unique structure in which the book is arranged. Each chapter describes a new point upon which he builds his main argument, highlighting attitudes towards a different segment of Indonesian society during a given time period by each of the three Islamic organisations he has selected as a case study. … the book provides a significant contribution not only for those concerned with Islam in Indonesia but for political theorists more broadly.' Chris Chaplin, South East Asia Research

    'Islam and democracy in Indonesia was a co-winner of the International Studies Association Religion and International Relations Best Book award in February 2017 and it is easy to see why. … Menchik has some real insights into the Islamization of Indonesia, and the concept of Godly nationalism offers opportunities to generalize and rethink our understanding of the ways in which religion can operate in the public sphere. His argument is supported by a weight of material and detail, and a careful exposition of the book's methodology.' Katherine Brown, International Affairs

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107548039
    • length: 224 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 151 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 28 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. After secularization
    2. Explaining tolerance and intolerance
    3. Local genealogies
    4. Godly nationalism
    5. The coevolution of religion and state
    6. Communal tolerance
    7. Religious democracy
    Methodological appendices

  • Author

    Jeremy Menchik, Boston University
    Jeremy Menchik is an Assistant Professor in the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, and a Faculty Affiliate in Political Science and Religious Studies. He has been Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow in Contemporary Asia at Stanford University, California and Luce Fellow at Columbia University, New York. His research focuses on the politics of religion, with a particular interest in Indonesia and the Muslim world. He has published articles in journals such as Comparative Studies in Society and History and South East Asia Research. His work has been recognized by several prizes, including the Fulbright award to Indonesia, the Mildred Potter Hovland Journal Article Prize, and the Paper Award from the Southeast Asian Politics Group, and received an honorable mention for the Aaron Wildavsky Dissertation Award.


    • Winner, 2017 Religion and International Relations Book Award, Religion and International Relations Section, International Studies Association

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