A new scholarly paper published by Prof. Jeremy Menchik, of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston Univeristy, suggests that a new and dangerous form on “godly nationalism” is emerging in Indonesia and, in particular, targeting its marginalized Ahmadiyah community. In a paper titled “Productive Intolerance: Godly Nationalism in Indonesia” published in the most recent issue of the Cambridge Univeristy Press journal Comparative Studies in Society and History (July 2014, Vol 56, No. 3), Prof. Menchik argues:
Since democratization, Indonesia has played host to a curious form of ethnic conflict: militant vigilante groups attacking a small, socially marginal religious sect called Ahmadiyah. While most scholars attribute the violence to intolerance by radicals on the periphery of society, this article proposes a different reading based on an intertwined reconfiguration of Indonesian nationalism and religion.
I suggest that Indonesia contains a common but overlooked example of “godly nationalism,” an imagined community bound by a shared theism and mobilized through the state in cooperation with religious organizations. This model for nationalism is modern, plural, and predicated on the exclusion of religious heterodoxy. Newly collected archival and ethnographic material reveal how the state’s and Muslim civil society’s long-standing exclusion of Ahmadiyah and other heterodox groups has helped produce the “we-feeling” that helps constitute contemporary Indonesian nationalism.
I conclude by intervening in a recent debate about religious freedom to suggest that conflicts over blasphemy reflect Muslim civil society’s effort to delineate an incipient model of nationalism and tolerance while avoiding the templates of liberal secularism or theocracy.
Prof. Menchik is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Boston Univeristy’s new Pardee School and specializes in the politics of religion, with a particular interest in Indonesia and the Muslim world. His new book, Islam, Indonesia and Modern Muslim Democracy: Tolerance without Liberalism will be pubslihed next year by Cambridge University Press.