Cosmopolitan Muslim Intellectuals and the Mediation of Cultural Islam in Indonesia

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Carool Kersten’s article describes how Indonesia plays a key role in connecting East and Southeast Asia with the Middle East and the rest of the world. Aside from progress in scholarly research on the historicity of these relations, Kersten analyzes contemporary developments. As the largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia has positioned itself in the vanguard of ASEAN as the main architect of the region’s relations with other parts of Asia, the Islamic world and the West, while simultaneously avoiding overtly political Islamic agendas, relying instead on a notion of ‘cultural’ or 'civil Islam.' This article discusses the alternative discourse of civil or cultural Islam developed by a cosmopolitan Indonesian Muslim intelligentsia who was given a space by the consecutive regimes following the ousting of Sukarno. Kersten identifies this uniquely Indonesian Islamic discourse as the outcome of the compounded efforts of three generations of Muslim intellectuals, loyal to the Pancasila ideology and embracing the slogan ‘Islam Yes! Islamic Party: No!’ In defiance of the growing antagonism following the re-emergence of Islamic political parties in the post-Suharto era, also the youngest generation of ‘liberal’ and ‘post-traditional’ Muslims continue to give shape to this cosmopolitan Islam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-136
Number of pages32
JournalComparative Islamic Studies
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Indonesia, ASEAN, Civil Islam, Pancasila, Cosmopolitan Islam, Nurcholish Majdid


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