Religious Pluralism in Indonesia: Threats and Opportunities for Democracy.

AuthorFormichi, Chiara

Religious Pluralism in Indonesia: Threats and Opportunities for Democracy. Edited by Chiara Formichi. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2021. Softcover: 261pp.

Pancasila is often described as the ideological glue that cements social cohesiveness in Indonesia, a vastly diverse country with many religions, ethnicities and languages. Its centrality in the nation's psyche becomes more salient when we consider that both the nationalist-secular and Islamist political camps accept Pancasila as a fundamental ideological structure of the Indonesian nation-state. The secular camp does not reject Pancasila so long as Islam does not become the basis of the state, while the Islamist camp tolerates it because Muslims, as the majority religious group, receive preferential treatment. In the popular imagination, Pancasila serves as the ideological basis to construct Indonesia as a "common home" that is tolerant of all faiths and religious practices.

However, in the course of the nation's journey, it became evident that Pancasila had inherent limitations in ensuring that religious pluralism could flourish. Religious Pluralism in Indonesia: Threats and Opportunities for Democracy gathers specialists from various disciplines--anthropology, sociology, history, political science and religious studies--to highlight the contradictions in the implementation of Pancasila.

A common theme highlighted in the various chapters is the ambiguity surrounding Pancasila. While the ideology seeks to integrate majority and minority groups through basic guarantees of fair treatment, Pancasila has also accommodated the exclusivist nature of Islamic majoritarianism, which discriminates against both non-Muslims and non-Sunni groups (p. 2). Consequently, the claim that Pancasila has succeeded in bringing about a tolerant Indonesian Islam, which is adaptive to local culture and less Arabized, belies the fact that there are glaring instances of intolerant practices in the country. This is well argued in Chapter One by Chiara Formichi on the limits of Pancasila as "a framework for pluralism".

In Chapter Two, Robert Hefner argues that even though the Islamic turn in Indonesia has not translated into electoral support for Islamist political parties, intensifying religiosity has had a profound impact on the micro- and meso-politics of the quotidian, including in interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims (p. 16). Hefner also points out that Islamist actors have succeeded in...

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