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Islam Secularity and the State in Post-New Order Indonesia Tensions between Neo-Modernist and Revivalist Leaderships in the Muhammadiyah 1998-2005

by Muhammad Hilali Basya | Abstract | This thesis explores how Muslims negotiate Islam, secularity and the modern state (Chapter 1) through examining the views of Muslim leaders in Indonesia during the colonial and postcolonial periods (Chapter 2), and, in particular, through a case study of the leadership of the Muhammadiyah – one of the two largest Islamic organisations in the country (Chapter 3). In the main body of my thesis I focus on the post-New Order period (1998–2005) when Indonesia underwent a transition from state authoritarianism to experiments with democracy. During this time of new political freedom, various Islamic movements pushed for the Islamization of the state, revisiting earlier debates with supporters of secularism following Indonesia’ independence. Notably, this changing context also exposed tensions within the Muhammadiyah between more marginal revivalists and more dominant neomodernist groupings with rather different conceptions of Islam’s relationship to the state and secularity. To investigate this further I undertook fieldwork in Indonesia between 2012 and 2013, adopting qualitative research methods to consult the organisation’s archives, other publicly available material and interview both revivalist and neo-modernist leaders at different levels of the Muhammadiyah: 11 central board members, 8 ‘ulama and 16 activists (Chapter 4). Analysing their different responses to three key post-New Order debates about the relationship between Islam, secularity and the modern state – the position of Islam in the constitution (Chapter 5); the position of shari‘a in the law (Chapter 6); and regarding non-Muslim leadership (Chapter 7) – my main argument is that in contrast to the revivalists who support a shari‘a-based state, Muhammadiyah neo-modernist opinion tends to endorse the idea of the ‘neutrality’ of the state while still supporting the public recognition (and even prioritisation) of Islamic identity. My research shows that having higher education and/or wider engagement in organizations concerned with democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism is a significant influence on the extent to which Muhammadiyah leaders develop such neomodernist ideas. Nevertheless, I also conclude that the wider post-New Order political context of conflict between revivalists and secularists, typically saw neomodernists, and particularly those in the Muhammadiyah central board, seek points of convergence with revivalists that would maintain the movement’s overall unity.

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