Islam and Citizenship in Indonesia: Democracy and the Quest for an Inclusive Public Ethics

  • Starts4:00 pm on Wednesday, February 28, 2024
  • Ends5:30 pm on Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs (CURA), The Center of the Study of Asia, and the Department of Anthropology invite you to join us for a book talk — moderated by Andrew March (UMass Amherst) — on Robert Hefner’s (BU) recently published monograph Islam and Citizenship in Indonesia: Democracy and the Quest for an Inclusive Public Ethics.


With some 280 million citizens, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world. It is also the third largest democracy. After 32 years of authoritarian rule under Suharto’s New Order regime, in 1998 this sprawling Southeast Asian country returned to electoral democracy; it remains among the most stable constitutional democracies in the Muslim majority world today. Indonesia’s successful return to electoral democracy stands in striking contrast to the failure of similar reform initiatives in most Arab-spring lands.

The consolidation of electoral democracy in Indonesia coincided, however, with an upsurge in both the numbers and assertiveness of Islamist militias, as well as a sharp increase in violence against religious minorities, including the country’s small Ahmadi and Shi’a communities. While Indonesians remain united in their commitment to electoral democracy, they remain divided over the ideals and practice of citizenship – especially citizenship across religious divides. Having been declared the freest country in Southeast Asia in the early 2000s by the international human rights organization, Freedom House, since 2010 Indonesia has been ranked as only partially Having once also been celebrated as “one of the least polarized democracies in Asia” (Slater and Arugay 2018:104), Indonesia in the 2010s witnessed a “return of ideological competition” (Warburton and Aspinall 2019). The polarization has most consistently pitted the supporters of an Indonesian variety of multireligious citizenship against Islamist proponents of Muslim supremacism in civic and political affairs.

Against this complex backdrop, my talk builds on my book to examine the Indonesian example in an effort to explore the lessons it offers on the conditions facilitating and/or undermining democracy and inclusive citizenship in modern political settings, Muslim-majority as well as non-Muslim. I examine both the achievements and challenges of Islam, democracy, and citizenship in this vast country.. The study highlights the way in which Muslim understandings of Islamic traditions and ethics have co-evolved – sometimes synergistically, other times in tension — with the understanding and practice of democracy and multireligious citizenship.

Pardee School of Global Studies, 154 Bay State Road, 2nd floor (Eilts Room)

Back to Calendar