Hefner Delivers Lecture on Role of Muslims in Indonesia’s Democratic Experience


On October 29, 2021, Robert HefnerProfessor of Anthropology and of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, delivered a lecture for the recently launched Indonesian International Islamic University (UIII) on the balance of religion and democracy in Indonesia. 

During the lecture, titled “Why the Study of Islam in Indonesia is Important: For Islamic Studies and Comparative Democratic Theory,” Hefner discussed the role of Muslims in Indonesia’s democratic experience. In his remarks, Hefner pointed out that a key ingredient in the relative success of Indonesia’s democratization was the fact that, for more than forty years, Muslim educators and public intellectuals had worked to educate the broader Indonesian public as to the compatibility of Islam, democracy, and multireligious citizenship. The Muslim community also succeeded at putting in place a social movement coalition linking pro-democracy Muslim intellectuals with mass-based social movements – a linkage lacking in most Arab-spring societies. Although Indonesia’s democracy continues to face challenges from Islamist populists, Hefner suggested those challenges have more to do with old-regime alliances than they do qualities of Islamic culture or public ethics.

A recording of the event is accessible below.

Robert Hefner has directed 19 research projects and organized 18 international conferences, and authored or edited nineteen books. He is former president of the Association for Asian Studies. At CURA, he directed the program on Islam and civil society since 1991; coordinated interdisciplinary research and public policy programs on religion, pluralism, and world affairs; and is currently involved in two research projects: “The New Western Plurality and Civic Coexistence: Muslims, Catholics, and Secularists in North America and Western Europe”; and “Sharia Transitions: Islamic Law and Ethical Plurality in the Contemporary World.” Read more about Professor Hefner on his faculty profile