The BLOG: Faith and Law

Indonesian Islam as the Islam of the modern world

Over at the Arc of the Universe blog, my friend Daniel Mark ponders why Indonesia is not perceived to represent the Islamic world, and what could be done to make its peaceful, pluralistic version of Islam more prominent. The most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia is nevertheless not an assertive player within the Muslim world, much less in international political affairs.

Mark, who in addition to being a world-class scholar is a commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, suggests that “American foreign policy experts might do well to begin thinking about how the country of our president’s childhood could be more assertive on the international stage, promoting a form of Islam suitable for the modern world.”

Indonesia’s peaceful Islam stands in stark contrast to the boisterous, tyrannical, and destructive Islam of ISIS. Mark observes that ISIS is “unrivaled in its barbarism.” Of course there are the beheadings and sex slavery. There is also irremediable cultural destructions. Mark says:

First, there is the destruction of ancient statues and temples, historical treasures gone forever. Second, and more importantly, there is the destruction of living communities of ancient pedigree, Christian, Yazidi, and other communities that persisted in Iraq for centuries or millennia before being wiped off the map by ISIS. These historical (and historic) losses do not compare to the enormous human tragedy brought about by ISIS’s rapacious and murderous advance, but neither must they be overlooked.

Mark goes on to highlight some of the institutional challenges that limit what state actors and policy makers can achieve in responding to ISIS. Those obstacles are formidable.

Perhaps one thing all of us can do is hold up positive examples such as Indonesia.

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod is a member of the Maine and Massachusetts (inactive) bars and an Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is the author of “Property and Practical Reason” (Cambridge University Press) and dozens of articles in journals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, many of which can be accessed at his website.

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