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The Islamic Turn in Indonesia: A Political Explanation

R. William Liddle
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 613-634
DOI: 10.2307/2646448
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2646448
Page Count: 22
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The Islamic Turn in Indonesia: A Political Explanation
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Abstract

R. William Liddle offers a "political explanation" of the "Islamic turn" in contemporary Indonesian politics by analyzing the phenomenon of ICMI (Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim se-Indonesia), or the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals. By approaching the ICMI as "largely a top-down rather than a bottom- up organization," the author departs from the work of other scholars and observers who view the rise of this organization as indicative of the growing 'Islamization' of Indonesian politics. In his characterization, however, the ICMI is only nominally Islamic. In fact, he emphasizes that this organization is managed by leaders personally selected by President Suharto, partly funded by the state, and seemingly uncommitted to pursuing an Islamic agenda. Furthermore, Suharto's manipulation of ICMI represents a continuation of a long-standing political strategy-dating back to the beginnings of the New Order in the mid-1960s-of opposing the "politicalization of religion" while encouraging personal piety. Indeed, this organization was formed not so much to capitalize on the growing religious sentiments of the new, urban Islamic middle class but to enable the government's own party, Golkar, to win the 1997 elections and thereby secure Suharto reelection in 1998 for another five-year term.

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