Faculty Book Talk: Menchik on Islam and Democracy in Indonesia


Jeremy Menchik, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, discussed his book Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance Without Liberalism as part of the 2016-2017 Faculty Book Talk Series on March 27, 2017.

The event was attended by Pardee School faculty and students and began with a talk by Menchik on how Indonesia’s Islamic organization’s envision the accommodation of religious difference in the country. The talk was followed by a question and answer session.

In Islam and Democracy in Indonesia, Menchik examines what tolerance means to the world’s largest Islamic organizations and what the implications of democracy are in Indonesia and the broader Muslim world.  He 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.

“On the empirical level, part of what the book tries to do is think about tolerance in a way that’s not unitary, homogeneous or unchanging over time and space,” Menchik said. “I tried to think of it as something that changes.”

Menchik said he was pleased that Islam and Democracy in Indonesia has been the subject of vigorous intellectual debate in Indonesia, as he intended to write it for the Indonesian public sphere.

“It has been vigorously debated and people have engaged with it,” Menchik said. “That is very gratifying, I am actively trying to write for the Indonesian public sphere. I’ve written a lot of Op-Eds, and I went back to Indonesia to promote the book and did about five different talks.”

Jeremy Menchik’s research interests include comparative politics, religion and politics, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. At Boston University he is a member of the graduate faculty of political science and coordinates the MAIA program with specialization in Religion and International Affairs.