Abstract: This article argues that Islam still plays a significant, if not a central role in Indonesian politics. It questions the notion that Indonesian voters have become "rational" and that religion no longer influences their electoral behaviour. The decline of Islamic parties' electoral clout should be interpreted not as the decline of political Islam but instead the reverse: Islam has penetrated the dominant nationalist, secular and Pancasila based political parties and has made them stronger in their contest against Islamic parties, which are no longer the lone channel for Islamic aspirations. The fact that almost all parties have accommodated religious aspirations and shied away from criticizing controversial religious issues shows the strength of religious influence in Indonesian politics today. The rising number of shariah-based by-laws in many districts in which local legislative assemblies are dominated by nationalist or secular parties, the passage of potentially discriminative bills by the national parliament in which nationalist or secular parties predominant, and the weak political response to the case of violence against Ahmadiyah are prime examples of how religion is still a major force in Indonesian politics.
Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs – Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Published: Apr 25, 2010
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