Democracy in Muslim World, Is It Possible?

CRCS Wednesday ForumAfter the last one on 20 August 2010, CRCS – ICRS GMU was once again visited by an Indonesianist professor from Monash University, Australia, Dr. Greg Barton. The author of the famous biography of Gus Dur came to speak for weekly discussion of Wednesday Forum.


Recently, Barton through the media Biblio (New Delhi) has published a review article on a book of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Towards a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies (Oxford University Press, 2009), written by Nader Hashemi Ph.D., assistant professor of Islamic Politics and the Middle East Studies in Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. The interesting fact of this book is that Hashemi included Indonesia and Turkey as models of the Muslim world democratization.


Barton gave a presentation relating to the review article as well as provided a snapshot of the ideas in the Hashemi’s book. Associated with the issue of Islam and politics in Indonesia and Turkey, Barton produced an article entitled Progressive Islamic Thought, and Civil Society in Turkey and Indonesia, which is still in process of publishing for the book of Islam in the Modern World: The Gulen Movement edited by Dale Eickleman.


Barton explained much further on how Turkey and Indonesia could pass the process of democratic development over the years. Led by Samsul Ma’arif, M.A, the discussion gave understanding upon the participants of how Hashemi formulated that the Muslim world should be able to achieve democracy. The two notions perform an objection towards the notions of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington about the impossibility of democracy in the Muslim world.


The process of democratization cannot circumvent the Western experience as a reference that should be elaborated. Formulating secularism as a requirement in this process does not refer to omit religion. What is needed is reformation over religious logic that always goes hand in hand with the process of secularization itself. The separation of religion and politics does not mean the absence of the role of religious groups either, not even the fundamental groups. Therefore, a space should be given to the native’s aspirations and understandings toward concepts of secularism.


Barton’s half-hour presentation was then followed by a discussion of which the democratization in Indonesia and the presence of Islamic parties within the political developments in some eras became more interesting to talk about. The thoughts of some Indonesian scholars such as Nurcholis Majid regarding the concepts of Islam and political interactions were also elaborated.


This discussion ended a bit longer that usual, at 14.30. Audience were not only from ICRS and CRCS and other departments at Gadjah Mada, but also from outside Gadjah Mada. They were very much aware of Barton’s outstanding capacity in his field. Neither Dr. Siti Syamsiyatun nor Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, directors of ICRS and CRCS would miss such opportunity, and Mark Woodward, visiting professor from Arizona State University. [MoU]

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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