Co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Southeast Asia Program
For much of the 2000s, scholars and activists lauded Indonesia’s surprisingly successful transition to democracy. Unlike Yugoslavia’s disintegration into smaller ethno-nationalist states, Indonesia witnessed the political marginalization of the military, the moderation of Islamists, the resolution of some regional rebellions, and the resurgence of a vibrant, plural, civil society. Recent years, however, have made imperfections in Indonesian democracy visible to the point where the death of Indonesian democracy is imaginable if not yet underway. Prof. Menchik will outline the role that Indonesian Islamic civil society may play in the death of Indonesian democracy.
Drawing on original survey data and interviews, as well as case studies in which the preferences of Nahlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah leaders have become visible, Prof. Menchik will argue that their values are compatible with both democracy and authoritarianism. While NU and Muhammadiyah exemplify the civic associational ties and democratic culture that are necessary for making democracy work, civic pluralism is not their only value. NU and Muhammadiyah have a hierarchy of values that they promote and defend, and they are willing to forgo civic pluralism in order to defend against the blasphemy of Islam. As a result, if Indonesian democracy dies, it will likely be a result of a coalition of Islamists and autocrats using appeals to populism and the defense of Islam in order to capture the lower classes and moderate Muslims, including many members of NU and Muhammadiyah.
Jeremy Menchik, in addition to his professorship at Boston University, is a BU faculty affiliate in Political Science and Religious Studies. His teaching and research focus on comparative politics and the politics of religion. His first book, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism, won the International Studies Association award for the best book on religion and international relations published in 2016. His research has appeared in scholarly journals such as Comparative Studies in Society and History, Comparative Politics, and South East Asia Research, as well as in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.