In This Review

Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia
Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia
By Robert W. Hefner
Princeton University Press, 2000, 286 pp

This thoughtful book argues that Indonesia illustrates the compatibility of democracy and Islamic culture. Hefner examines Indonesia's social and cultural patterns, finding that its tolerance and courteous respect for others meet the required standards of a democratic civil society. He traces how the two Muslim parties, Masyumi and Nahdlatul Ulama, championed Islamic ideals while coping with the authoritarian Sukarno and Suharto regimes. Particularly enlightening is his analysis of the variety of views held by Indonesian Muslims. He shows how Muslim social and religious leaders developed behind-the-scenes political ideas that could serve as the foundations for a pluralistic democracy. But whereas Islam provided the basis for a strong civil society, Indonesian society was too weak to contend with the "uncivil state" that dominated the country's political life. Hefner's study ends with Suharto's fall and the euphoria surrounding Abdurrahman Wahid's election as president in June 1999. But Wahid's shaky rule leaves open the question of whether democracy will be effectively institutionalized. Hefner makes a strong case that Islam in Indonesia is outstandingly civil, but the recent turmoil casts doubt as to whether it has the elements essential for democracy.