Ramadhan’s To-Read-List

The last week of my fieldwork in Bengkulu coincides with the first week of Ramadhan – the Muslim fasting month. Given that I have more time for reading (for pleasure) in the last one month or so, I somehow managed to come up with this reading list:

On Political Islam

On Labor Politics

Having something to read on the side while working on your dissertation project is fun. It keeps your sanity too.

Interfaith tolerance challenges Indonesian Islam, democracy

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011
Interfaith tolerance challenges Indonesian Islam, democracy
Special to The Japan Times

BEPPU, Oita Prefecture — During the heat of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, which successfully toppled the respective autocratic regimes of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, some incidents in Indonesia appear to have dimmed the prospect of democracy on this side of the Islamic world.

In Pandeglang, Banten, the Ahmadiya community was attacked by mobs that caused at least three people to die and others to get injured. In the same week, just a couple of days after the Ahmadiya incident, three churches were destroyed by angry mobs in Temanggung, Central Java.

Ironically, these incidents happened in the middle of World Interfaith Tolerance Week. The rise of Islamism in the world’s biggest Muslim democracy reminds us of the warning from Farag Fouda, a prominent Egyptian progressive intellectual: Will the Islamic world pursue the path of enlightenment, or follow the path of orthodoxy and fundamentalism?

The responses to this issue of violation of religious freedom, sympathy and solidarity from people from all walks of life have been tremendous. In various online platforms, most notably Facebook and Twitter, intellectuals, public figures and laymen have expressed their solidarity toward their Ahmadi and Christian fellows.

This spirit has also moved a number of concerned citizens to immediately stage some demonstrations at Jakarta locations, including in front of the Presidential Palace. All of these street actions are driven mostly by the online activism of the middle class.

Unfortunately, the mindset of “blaming the victim” is still prevalent among a large part of the population, including public officials. It is not uncommon to hear some pejorative comments directed toward the Ahmadiya community, despite the discrimination and injustice that they have endured for a long time.

Fatwas or religious verdicts declaring Ahmadiya teachings as heretical were first issued by MUI or Indonesia’s Council of Religious Clerics in 1980. Recently Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who comes from the Islamist Party (PPP) also supported the banning of Ahmadiya teachings and practices.

Because of these fatwas, regulations and even statements from religious and state authorities, vigilantism conducted by the Islamic fundamentalist groups and other political thugs seem to find support.

In democratic polity, citizens’ participation is one of the most fundamental elements in the decision-making process. Nevertheless, democracy should not be understood merely as the will of the majority but also as the aspiration of minorities, including the Ahmadiya community. Thus, democracy should also be realized as the protection of minority rights, since majoritarianism alone will lead to the tyranny of majority. As a consequence, tolerance is inherently important in building a healthy democracy.

To make democracy flourish, it needs to be protected from anti-democratic and intolerant forces, because freedom cannot protect itself.

Sadly, these anti-democratic groups and associations are often protected by some particular political elites or public officials, politically or financially, for shortsighted, pragmatist interests, such as to garner more votes in elections — a proof of historical remains from the authoritarian era.

These violent acts toward Ahmadiya are not the first. They add to the long list of violent acts committed by state and society in Indonesia. It is not surprising that some observers on Indonesian politics, such as Henk Schulte-Nordholt (2002), argued that this is a continuation of the genealogy of violence in Indonesia.

Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that Ahmadis, Christians and other minorities are part and parcel of Indonesian society. They have been a part of Indonesia’s social fabric even before the state came into existence officially.

In fact, these minorities have contributed a lot in the process of nation building. Regardless of different interpretations of these incidents and allegations about who is the true mastermind, to respect and protect their rights to live and freely exercise their religious beliefs are the duty and obligation of the state and society. It is true that these minorities, particularly the Ahmadis, have doctrines significantly different from mainstream Islam, but that does not validate any hostilities and even killings toward them.

What we need rather is constructive theological debates and dialogues in the framework of tolerance and appreciation toward diversity, as stipulated in Islam and other religions.

As next step to addressing the current problems of lack of religious freedom and tolerance in Indonesia, several steps should be considered:

First, the state should not be absent in defending religious freedom and minority rights as enshrined in the Indonesian Constitution and Pancasila, the philosophical foundation of Indonesian state. Attacks and killings in the Ahmadiya community in Banten and churches in Central Java are another example of state failures to protect its citizens.

Second, there is a need for “securitization” of this issue. Various proofs and analyses have led to the conclusion that these incidents, considering numerous factors, are possibly orchestrated for short-term political and economic interests. Therefore, it is important to bring this case into the proper legal process.

Third, Indonesian Muslims and the Islamic world in general need to do theological and historical reflection in response to Ahmadiya and other “post-Islam” religions, such as Bahafi and indigenous religions. It is necessary to have greater understanding and tolerance despite the differing views, even if such view is considered as heretic.

Last, democracy should be translated not only as electoralism but also as protection for civil and political rights. This case basically is a litmus test for the prospect of democracy, freedom and justice in the Islamic world

Iqra Anugrah, a master’s candidate at the Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan, is active in various Islamic and student groups (twitter: @libloc). © 2011 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

Republik, Kebebasan, dan Kemerdekaan

Republik, Kebebasan dan Kemerdekaan

Oleh Iqra Anugrah*

Beberapa hari lagi menjelang ibadah di bulan suci Ramadhan sekaligus peringatan kemerdekaan Indonesia, bangsa kita kembali diguncang berbagai macam peristiwa yang menyerang sendi-sendi kehidupan berbangsa. Aksi-aksi kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh ormas-ormas berbaju agama seperti Front Pembela Islam (FPI) maupun hiruk-pikuk permainan politik dan modal yang tecermin dalam usulan pencalonan Tommy Suharto sebagai calon presiden pemilu 2014 merupakan suatu bukti nyata bahwa prinsip-prinsip kehidupan berbangsa dan bernegara kita sangat rentan dengan penyakit-penyakit fundamentalisme dan radikalisme keagamaan, terorisme dan ancaman keamanan lainnya, serta oligarki dan korupsi politik dan ekonomi.

Dalam kaitannya dengan Hari Ulang Tahun Kemerdekaan RI yang ke-65, mari kita renungkan sejenak realita yang terjadi di hadapan kita dengan visi kemerdekaan yang dicita-citakan oleh the founding fathers. Setelah lebih dari 10 tahun proses reformasi dilakukan, adalah suatu hal yang sangat memalukan bahwasanya kita seringkali menganggap kemerdekaan sebagai sesuatu yang statis dan kosong, taken for granted, bukannya mengisi dan berperan aktif dalam memaknai arti kemerdekaan. Akibatnya, kemerdekaan hanyalah sekedar menjadi slogan, yang dalam sejarah kita seringkali dibajak demi syahwat politik dan ekonomi jangka pendek, baik demi “revolusi”, “pembangunan”, maupun dalam nama “agama”.

Sehingga, ada dua pertanyaan yang perlu dijawab mengenai kemerdekaan dan kemandekan perkembangan masyarakat kita yang tercermin dalam berbagai kejadian-kejadian yang merapuhkan landasan republik: apa arti sebenarnya dari kemerdekaan dan sudahkah kita mencapai cita-cita kemerdekaan?

Kemerdekaan, dalam pandangan penulis, dapat diartikan dalam dua konsep yang mudah dan seringkali disalahartikan dalam diskursus politik kita: kebebasan dan republikanisme, yang mencakup berbagai segi kehidupan berbangsa dan bernegara secara komprehensif.

Pertama, kebebasan pada hakikatnya adalah esensi dari perjuangan kemerdekaan Indonesia untuk terbebas dari tekanan dan dominasi luar kolonialisme, untuk menjadi tuan di negeri sendiri. Kebebasan ini juga bersifat universal dan unik di tiap zaman dan kondisi serta merupakan tema yang utama dari sejarah panjang umat manusia mencari arti hidupnya, seperti dapat kita lihat di zaman keemasan atau The Golden Age peradaban Arab-Islam yang menjamin kebebasan berekspresi dan berpikir sehingga memungkinkan transfer ilmu dan pengetahuan filsafat Yunani ke peradaban Barat yang sedang dalam masa kegelapan, ataupun lahirnya konsep kebebasan kewargaan di Barat yang diperjuangkan oleh kaum pedagang dan intelektual, artes liberales, melawan feodalisme dan struktur sosial-politik dan ekonomi yang mengekang manusia.

Kedua, dalam konteks keIndonesiaan, kebebasan menjadi penting karena Indonesia tidak hanya membutuhkan kebebasan positif (freedom to) namun juga kebebasan negative (freedom for) yang menjamin warga negara untuk mengembangkan potensi dan kemanusiaanya dalam struktur politik yang menjamin hak-hak sipilnya, yang merupakan gagasan utama dari republikanisme, yaitu menjamin hak-hak warga dalam bingkai supremasi hukum atau rule of law, bebas dari tekanan konservatisme dan dominasi dari berbagai bentuk institusi-baik dari negara, modal, maupun agama.

Berangkat dari ide-ide ini, apa yang terjadi sekarang merupakan refleksi bahwa kita belum mencapai cita-cita kemerdekaan. Kemerdekaan membutuhkan kebebasan dalam bidang politik, ekonomi, sosial dan budaya, yang dijaga dalam kerangka hukum. Kemerdekaan juga mensyaratkan kesadaran bahwa Indonesia adalah rumah bagi semua, tempat di mana keragaman dan perbedaan dalam suku, agama dan kelas sosial ditanggapi dengan toleransi dalam bentuk semangat keterbukaan dan dialog.

Melihat fenomena yang terjadi sekarang ini, pertanyaan selanjutnya yang muncul adalah sanggupkah kita mewujudkan cita-cita kemerdekaan dalam bingkai kebebasan dan republikanisme?

Tiga Kebebasan

Untuk menjawab tantangan kemerdekaan dan memperkuat demokrasi di Indonesia, diperlukan tiga bentuk kebebasan dari berbagai bentuk dominasi yang menjalar di Indonesia.

Yang pertama adalah kebebasan pikiran, kebebasan dari ketertutupan dan fundamentalisme, yang akan mengakibatkan sikap inward-looking dan kejumudan berpikir yang akhirnya akan mempersempit pola pikir menjadi “kita vs mereka” yang tentunya tidak sehat bagi kehidupan dalam republik kita.

Kebebasan yang kedua adalah kebebasan dari dominasi modal dan institutionalisasi nafsu-nafsu materialistik demi kekuasaan politik maupun ekonomi jangka pendek. Pada tataran sosio-kultural, dominasi modal akan membuat manusia mudah tergelincir kepada fundamentalisme demi “jalan singkat” penyelesaian masalah hidup, sedangkan pada tatanan politik dan legal, dominasi modal akan melahirkan kekuasaan yang koruptif yang tidak transparan dan eksploitatif. Keduanya berujung kepada warga negara yang tidak terbebaskan, suatu kondisi yang akan mengurangi kebebasan mereka sebagai manusia dan kontribusi mereka terhadap republik.

Adapun kebebasan yang ketiga adalah kebebasan dari dominas politik dan ketakutan. Tersedianya ruang bagi aktivitias politik yang deliberatif dan demokratis adalah suatu keharusan bagi sebuah entitas politik yang menamakan dirinya sebagai republik. Kebebasan politik dan penegakan hukum adalah wadah dimana warga negara dapat melakukan haknya, bebas dari tekanan dan ketakutan yang menghalangi warga untuk bertindak.

Dalam tataran kebijakan, tiga kebebasan ini dapat dimanifestasikan dalam “resep” yang cukup mudah, yaitu menanamkan dan mengembangkan “keyakinan publik” atau civic religion terhadap demokrasi dan institusi pendukungnya, supremasi hukum, toleransi dan pluralisme. Perananan kaum intelektual juga menjadi penting, sebagai katalisator untuk transfer nilai-nilai kebebasan dan republikanisme terhadap masyarakat serta “penjaga rel” dan pengawas pemerintah. Menghadapi ancaman dalam berbagai bentuk, baik itu fundamentalisme keagamaan maupun oligarki politik-ekonomi, Indonesia akan tetap merdeka dan tidak perlu gamang selama ia berpegang teguh pada prinsip kebebasan dan republikanisme.

*Iqra Anugrah adalah Mahasiswa di College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Jepang. Ia aktif dalam berbagai gerakan pelajar dan civil society.



Middle East needs truly secular governance

Special to The Japan Times
BEPPU, Oita Pref. — The march for secularism held on April 26 in Lebanon focused attention on the country and the region’s conflicts and battle of values. Thousands of Lebanese from various social backgrounds — Shiite, Sunni, Maronite and more — took to the streets and marched to the national parliament in Beirut to demand a secular state.

Lebanese have a deep-rooted distrust of state-endorsed consociationalism. In this system, religious authority comes first before the state. As a consequence, being a Lebanese in Lebanon is not just a matter of citizenship. The first question that comes to mind when Lebanese meet is “what is your sect?” without considering the fact that all citizens are equal before the law and have equal rights guaranteed by the constitution.

However, collusion between short-sighted religious leaders and corrupt politicians makes implementing the mandate of the constitution difficult. The sectarian system has turned Lebanon, once dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, into a battlefield of civil wars driven by geopolitical interests between conflicting parties in the region.

This is the result of having ethno-religious interests at the front rank, surpassing the need to maintain national unity. Rather than defining a national and multicultural identity, Lebanon has chosen the wrong path and is trapped in a frenzy of identity politics. With this mindset, the selfish tendency for “us” and not for “them” emerged among Lebanese.

Thus, the battle for identity, authority and “singularization” of the country began. Ignoring the reality of a melting-pot society, intolerance grew, which angered the citizens and drove them into the streets to demand equal rights.

The Middle East was once an historically-conscious society where differences were not opposed but respected and celebrated. Albert Hourani, a leading Lebanese-British scholar, illustrated this phenomenon in his classical text “Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age.”

From 1798 to 1939, though the Arabian Peninsula was colonized by European powers, Arab culture enjoyed a high degree of tolerance and equality among the different layers and backgrounds of society. Islamic enlightenment, which was rooted in the region, had a place in the Middle East and combined with new ideas from Europe.

Intellectuals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, ranging from the devout Muhammad Abduh to the secular Taha Hussein, were free to express their opinions and ideas. Discourse over the identity and future of society was dynamic and vibrant, and was brought into practice by the endorsement of political establishments at the time.

But after that the secular administrations of Arab countries failed to manage the economy of newly-independent states, implemented authoritarian methods to maintain power, while at the same time struggled to promote the livelihood of the people. This absence of democratic participation left no room for citizens to have their voices heard.

The only choice open to them was religion, and with the help of chaotic Western foreign policies in the region, militant Islamism rose onto the stage, which has meant that making a sober choice between corruption of the state or delusion from religious fanatics much more difficult.

The consequences have been miserable. Taha Husein’s hope of a modern, Western-friendly Egypt is now far from reality. Lebanon’s achievements in finance and tourism have also dissapeared, replaced by prolonged conflict.

The next task is to watch this civic movement in Lebanon. The sentiment should not be taken for granted because it’s a real desire for change. First and foremost, the state should know its role in society, especially in the context of a multicultural Lebanon. If the state does not know its role in society it will face a big problem. In other words, the state must be able to differentiate between its domain and the domain of citizens. When states regulate things that are beyond its mandate it creates a problematic situation in society.

Government should take care of the people’s welfare, build roads and infrastructure, and help the economy, and not be concerned with one’s religion, ethnicity or any other identity markers.

If the government insists on intervening in people’s lives and doesn’t protect their rights than it’s not a fully-functioning government. It’s simply a dysfunctional state. The Middle East desperately needs effective and efficient governments that treat everyone equally. By committing itself to this principle, Lebanon might regain its status as a home for peaceful coexistence between peoples and religions and send a message to the Middle East and the world.

Iqra Anugrah, a third-year student at the College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan, is active in various Islamic and student groups.


Indonesia’s Long Journey Towards Democracy

Indonesia’s democracy development is good news. As the most populous Muslim nation where democracy and market economy rule, it has started to play a more active role in international politics. Recent achievements and challenges of Indonesia show how it should aim higher.

Ten years ago, Indonesia was near collapse. The Asian financial crisis hit the nation while at the same time it had to face political reformation after the authoritarian Suharto government. Ethno-religious sentiments and conflicts were widespread and riots were part of daily life. 2 However, things do move. A recent report on Indonesia showed that despite of many failures, Indonesia has been able to achieve many things with political and economic stability under the popular re-elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 3 Various bombings in Indonesia, including the latest 2009 Jakarta bombing in the aftermath of the relatively peaceful election, do not undermine Indonesia’s performance, especially when Indonesian National Police succeeded in combating terrorism. 4 Economic sectors after global financial crisis also record impressive development. Indonesia is one of few countries in Asia that has positive economic growth even when Asian economies experienced negative growth. 5 These achievements have lifted the face of Indonesia’s diplomacy in international fora. Besides trying to take the lead in ASEAN, Indonesia also exhibits its ability in tackling climate change and global warming issues. 6 Indonesia has faced and is facing serious issues both socially and economically, but they have so far not prevented Indonesia’s journey to democracy.

What Indonesia has achieved in the last ten years

What makes Indonesia’s reform unique is the fact that Indonesia implemented both political and economic reform at the same time. While many similar cases in many countries seem to be failed, Indonesia has managed its commitment to reform with quite successful results. The most prominent case is the re-introduction of free and fair electoral politics. Since after 1998, Indonesia has conducted three elections: first multiparty election in 1999, presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004, where voters had opportunities to directly vote for the MPs for the first time and the last 2009 election, which was relatively peaceful and successful. 7 Indonesian presidential elections in 2009 also showed the peaceful and fascinating race among the three presidential candidates, the first candidate is the incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with his running mate, Indonesia’s central bank governor, Boediono, dubbed as SBY-Boediono, which supported by pro-growth centre-right coalition of SBY’s Democrat Party and several leading Islamic parties. The second candidate is the former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and her partner, a former high-ranking military general, Prabowo, referred colloquially as Mega-Pro. They have the support of the centre-left Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), the populist Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) and some other small parties. The last candidate is the incumbent vice president Jusuf Kalla with former general Wiranto as the candidate from Golkar Party and People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), using the nickname JK-Win.

The success of elections is just a glimpse of the advancement of civil and political rights in Indonesia. In the field of constitutional law, Indonesia has amended its constitution, as mandated in the agenda of political reformation, in order to fit into the spirit of democracy and human rights. 8 Freedom of speech, information and the press is the most striking example of this transformation. The numbers of newspapers, magazines, radio stations and other new media has been increasing since the fall of Suharto, and now people can talk and express their opinion freely in public spaces. 9 Another story is the rapid development and expansion of civil society. 10 The role of civil society and NGOs has been influential since the New Order era in democratizing Indonesia. 11 Nowadays, various NGOs with different focuses, ranging from faith-based social organizations to right-based pressure groups, have flourished and contributed to the advancement of democratization process in Indonesia.

Freer political and economic activities also transformed the social life of Indonesian society. The question of Chinese Indonesians and other minorities was one of the main concerns for the betterment of democracy and minority groups in multicultural Indonesia. Thus, anti-discrimination legislation was introduced in the line of this spirit. 12 Another valuable improvement is despite various Islamist sentiments from some hard-line Islamic groups, majority rules. A study conducted by Saiful Mujani, a noted political scientist in Indonesia shows that political reformation and democratization has increased as much as the level of religiosity of Indonesian Muslims.13 Problems of ethno-religious conflicts and separatist movements in some regions have mostly been solved. Peace agreements with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) included special autonomy and local political parties in Aceh province were some of the political breakthroughs in settling conflicts in Indonesia. 14

What Indonesia should work on in the near future?

Despite of its tremendous accomplishments, a fully-functioning democracy in Indonesia is still not there yet. In the case of the latest election for example, though it was largely free, fair and peaceful, the tension among the presidential candidates was inevitable. 15 Alleged frauds and manipulations, unhealthy competition and empty campaign are only some issues that have to be solved for the next election.

The old story of collusion, corruption and nepotism (KKN in Indonesian language) is also still popular. 16 The case of Bank Century is an example how state supervision is still weak in watching financial and banking activities. 17Bank Century, a private bank in Indonesia, is accused of misusing its customers’ money. One of its owners got arrested by the police and sentenced to four years in prison. 18 What makes the whole issue became more complicated is the public perception that the root of all problems is the weak control from the government, especially the central bank. Hence, the government policy to bailout the bank was politically and legally problematic. This situation is worsened by the case of Azahari Azhar, the inactive chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), who has been arrested on suspicion of murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, a prominent businessman. 19 This situation has become more complicated by Azhar’s testimony in which he mentioned that some KPK’s leaders also received bribes in the investigation of corruption in an integrated radio communications system project. 20 The testimony and several other cases finally led into the investigation of KPK’s leaders by the national police. 21 This is a huge irony because in the middle of building a solid foundation for the rule of law, clean government and meritocracy, many problems seem to thwart this effort.

Other two tasks of Indonesia are to tackle natural calamities and democratize the economy. Indonesia’s geographical area, which is archipelagic and located in the meeting point of two major tectonic plates, is the reason why Indonesians should learn to live with disasters.22 The latest earthquakes in major islands such as Java and Sumatera is the momentum for the government to prove its capacity in handling non-traditional security issues. 23 The story of post-crisis Indonesian economic development, although it performs quite well, should not neglect the fact that basic social service and provision such as healthcare, housing and education is inadequate and the widening gap between the poor and the rich has to be reduced. 24 Good investment climates, fair regulations and less corruption is some key points in enhancing the economy

The rise of growing religious fundamentalism and violence is also a big hurdle for the healthy development of democracy in Indonesia. Various Islamic fundamentalist groups, such as the international Hizbut Tahrir, the vigilante Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and Majelis Mujahiddin Indonesia (MMI), which is used to be backed by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a prominent conservative Islamic cleric, are getting more popular. 25 Persecution and violence against minority in the name of religion and blasphemy are becoming trend. Ahmadiyya, an unorthodox Islamic group who has coexisted in Indonesia with other elements of Indonesia had to face numerous persecutions and violent attacks because its teachings are considered blasphemous and heretic. 26 This situation has led to a crisis when the tension between Islamic fundamentalist and conservative groups and the liberal and pluralist camp reached its peak in the so-called Monas (National Monument) Incident on July 1, 2008. 27The tragic fact is that the peaceful rally to campaign and reaffirm the importance of pluralism and tolerance, which was held on the same day of the birthday of Pancasila-Indonesia’s national principles in nation building, was contaminated by violent actions. There is an important fact showed in the study of the famous Islamic scholar and activist, Luthfi Assyaukanie, which mentioned that there is a strong correlation between violent actions and fatwas (religious opinion by Muslim jurists) from religious clerics. 28 In his thesis, he found that the widespread violent actions find their justifications from these fatwas. The rise of religious bylaws imposed in several regions in Indonesia also undermines the protection of civil and political rights. 29 There have been some complaints because these sharia-based bylaws are considered to be discriminative, especially for women such as the introduction of rajam or adultery stoning in accordance to the strict sharia interpretation in Aceh province. 30When in this kind of situation the government is expected to adhere to the principle of rule of law and takes a clear stance, it seems that instead of imposing such policy the state prefer to ‘play safe’.

Indonesia’s Democracy: Present and Future Trajectory

Indonesia is not a perfect democracy quite yet. The latest election result, which brought victory to the incumbent President Yudhoyono, should be taken as a golden opportunity to strengthen Indonesia’s democracy. 31Indonesia has to learned from the past and reaffirm its national commitment. This effort requires participation and willingness from every elements of Indonesia as a nation. Threats to civil rights, corruption, natural disasters, expanding income disparity and religious fundamentalism are only some of the challenges of contemporary Indonesia.

In the field of international politics, Indonesia should concentrate not only in the regional arena of ASEAN, but also beyond that, something which is called “Post-ASEAN” Foreign Policy by the leading international relations scholar of Indonesia, Rizal Sukma. 32 Its membership in the G-20 means that Indonesia should have a say and contribute more in international affairs. 33 Indonesia’s soft power is expanding now, and through various channels such as cultural exchanges, diplomacy and economic activities, it has to work on its international image. 34 Indonesia’s relationship with other countries is also relatively friendly. Though it often competes and has conflicts with its two nearest neighbors, Singapore and Malaysia, generally speaking it maintains good relationship with many countries. The visit of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is a proof of how the Western world is now seeing Indonesia as a strategic partner and connecting bridge between the West and the rest of the world, particularly Asia and Middle East. 35

Indonesia’s success in Southeast Asia as the only working democracy in the region is also good news. 36 As a nation with strategic interests and role in world affairs, it deserves a better image. The answer for this problem is very simple: the combination of liberal democracy, market economy and moderate Islam as the three key principles in building a democratic Indonesia. These three points are related to one another. In order to defend and preserve Indonesian multiculturalism, democracy is needed as an instrument to guarantee civil rights of its citizens. Nevertheless, the protection of civil and political rights will be impossible without the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. Thus, market economy with social protection is needed in order to promote competitiveness and increase growth and prosperity of the nation. The last but not the least is the use of spiritual and cultural values as the moral basis for the system. A moderate and tolerant interpretation of Islam has long become the mainstream of Indonesia’s religious life, which is also the core element for social capital and democratic politics in Indonesia. Despite all the challenges that Indonesia faces, as long as it follows these principles, the Indonesian future will remain bright.

Iqra Anugrah is a third year student in College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, majoring in political science and international relations. He is a member of the Advisory Board for Strategic Studies Committee for Indonesian Students’ Association in Japan (PPI Jepang). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the PPI Jepang.


  1. Long, Simon. (2009, September 12-18). A golden chance: A special report on Indonesia. The Economist, pp. 1-18  
  2. Ibid.  
  3. Ibid.  
  4. “Indonesia Police: Terrorism mastermind killed in raid” USA Today. 17 September 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-09-16-indonesia_N.htm  
  5. “UBS says Indonesia’s economic growth to reach 6 percent in 2010, 2011” iStockAnalyst. 28 October 2009. Retieved October 30, 2009 from http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/3585843#  
  6. Simamora, Adianto P. and Maulida, Erwida. (2009, February 320). “Clinton, UN praise RI role in global climate talks” The Jakarta Post. Retrieved October 30,2009,from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/02/20/clinton-un-praise-ri-role-global-climate-talks.html  
  7. “Scoping Indonesia’s Next President”.(2009). Indonesia Election Watch 2009. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Indonesia Programme. Retrieved October 30, from http://www.rsis.edu.sg/Indonesia_Prog/pdf/IndonesiaElectionWATCH_2009_ISSUE12.pdf  
  8. See Chapter XA and XI of The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia http://www.mpr.go.id/index.php?m=beritas=detail&id_berita=41  
  9. “Radio Development and Indonesia’s Democratic Transition”. World Bank. Retrieved October, 30 2009 from http://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/radio-development-and-indonesias-democratic-transition  
  10. Harney, Stefano & Olivia, Rita. (2003). Civil Society and Civil Society Organizations in Indonesia. International Labor Office, Geneva http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/ses/download/docs/civil.pdf  
  11. Bunnel, Frederick. (1996). Community Participation, Indigenous Ideology, Activist Politics: Indonesian NGOs In The 1990s. In Lev, Daniel S., & McVey, Ruth (Ed.), Making Indonesia (pp. 180-201). New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program.  
  12. Hoon, Chang-Yau. (2004). Ethnic Chinese experience a ‘reawakening’ of their Chinese identity. Inside Indonesia, 78, http://insideindonesia.org/content/view/237/29/  
  13. Mujani, Syaiful. (2003). Religious Democrats: Democratic Culture and Muslim Political Participation in Post-Suharto Indonesia. Ohio: Ohio State University  
  14. “Aceh Peace Process Negotiations”.(n.d.). Crisis Management Initiative. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from http://www.cmi.fi/?content=aceh_project  
  15. Siswo, Sujadi. (2009, February 12). Rising tensions between Indonesian president and VP ahead of elections. Channel News Asia. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/southeastasia/view/408371/1/.html  
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Commemorating the Fall of Berlin Wall: a Tribute to Humanity

Commemorating the fall of Berlin Wall: a Tribute to Humanity

By Iqra Anugrah, APS3

In the middle of 20th century, world witnessed the end of the Second World War. This catastrophe of civilization, however, did not end at that point. The winners of the war, namely the Western bloc led by the US and the Communist bloc led by the USSR, started to dismantle the power of the loser, Germany. The West initially proposed liberal democracy and market economy as a model for the newly reconstructed Germany, something that the USSR rejected. As a consequence of this policy, the Soviet Union initiated the declaration of Soviet-style republic in the Eastern part of Germany, to challenge the existence of West Germany. The construction of the Berlin Wall later started in 1961, in order to prevent emigration from the East and Western influence in Soviet-occupied areas.

Twenty years ago, in 1989, no one would imagine how the Berlin Wall could fall. At that time, socialism was tried to be implemented in East Germany. In the so-called Democratic Republic, the state provided everything. East Germany guaranteed free healthcare for everyone, free education until university level and the participation level of women in politics. Those things looked like an earthly heaven, but what went wrong?

In this “People’s Republic”, people could not elect their own leaders. Some party bureaucrats from the undemocratic Socialist Unity Party, SED, claimed to represent them. They also could not travel freely to foreign countries, especially those countries which were labeled as “capitalist”.

In Leipzig, twenty years ago, people started to gather at the historical St. Nicholas’ Church. At that time, it was prohibited for East German citizens to gather for political activities. The only thing the East German authority did not know was that Church was the only place for people to voice their aspirations.  People came and as the time goes by, more and more people attended the service. Slowly but sure, the voice of struggle started to reach out.

When the authority heard the news, they were not happy about it at all. They tried to arreste some people. But the spirit never dies and the movement still kept on going. Every Monday, after the regular prayer, people gathered for the demonstrations. The Montagsdemo, Monday demonstration began with few people, until 70,000 out of 500,000 citizens of Leipzig came to the street, driven by their consciousness and made the demonstrations noted as one of the most peaceful revolutions in the world. People were holding candles, a symbol of resistance and non-violence. Facing fully-armed security forces, the demonstrators shouted the most powerful chant, Wir sind das Volk!-“We are the people”, a statement for people’s sovereignty. They challenged the legitimacy of the authoritarian GDR regime and asked for more openness and freedom in the country.

The demonstrations spread to many other places as well, including Berlin. Series of peaceful demonstrations finally led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and the fall of East German socialist state, which later triggered the fall of communist bloc in Europe.

Twenty years later a lot of people gathered again at St. Nicholas’ Church, prepared for another demonstration. In the past, people united for fight against the authoritarian nature of the communist rule. Now they unite again, struggling against the injustice of social security cuts, market fundamentalism and war, as a tribute of humanity.

*Published at The APU Times, November 2009