Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Home to approximately 230 million people of which more than 85% follow Islam, there are almost as many Muslims living in Indonesia as in the entire Arab-speaking world combined.1 Sunni Islam is the predominant branch of Islam, with only around one million Indonesians being Shia. There is a wide array of other forms of Islam, including significant numbers of Sufi communities.2 The major fault line, however, lies between santri who adhere to orthodox forms of Islam while the abangan practice more syncretic versions of Islam.3
Islam and Democracy in Indonesia
Islam and democracy are said to be in a relationship fraught with problems as the former, allegedly, does not allow secular law to be put above divine law or accept the legitimacy of worldly authorities. This relationship is less problematic in Indonesia, a democratic Muslim-majority country, the argument goes, due to the syncretic forms of Islam practiced in the archipelago state that are less dogmatic, and hence more conducive to democratic principles. While this is a valuable point, various factors extraneous to ‘moderate Indonesian Islam,’ such as a fragmented Islamic authority in civil society, a weakly institutionalized party system as well as dynamics triggered by recent institutional reforms all play a role in the continuing insignificance of political Islam in the country.
The ease with which democracy is thriving in Muslim-majority Indonesia is usually ascribed to the moderate forms of Islam Indonesians have adopted.
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