In spite of their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, Indonesia and Turkey are formally secular states though of different kind. However, both allocate a surprisingly high proportion of the state budget to the administration of Islam, considerably higher than most countries where Islam is the state religion. In Turkey during the years 1950-2000 and in Indonesia during the New Order period (1966-1998), the state invested heavily in the education of “enlightened” religious personnel and the dissemination of religious views that were compatible with the drive for modernisation and development. Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) controls a huge bureaucracy through which the state interacts with the pious conservative part of the population. Schools for the training of prayer leaders addressed the needs of the same segment of the population and were intended to facilitate the integration of these conservatives into the project of secular modernisation. However, these institutions had the unforeseen effect of enabling the social mobility of once marginalised conservatives, allowing them to gradually gain control of part of the state apparatus. Mutatis mutandis, very similar developments can be observed in Indonesia, where the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) and the Council of Islamic Scholars (MUI) were expected to provide development-friendly religious guidance and prevent undesirable expressions of religiosity. After the fall of the Suharto regime, the MUI made itself independent of the government and instead became a vehicle through which various conservative religious groups strove to influence government policies, with various degrees of success.
About the Author
Martin van Bruinessen is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Studies of Modern Muslim Societies at Utrecht University. He is an anthropologist with a strong interest in politics, history and philology, and much of his work straddles the boundaries between these disciplines. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Kurdistan (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria) and in Indonesia and has taught on subjects ranging from Ottoman history and sociology of religion to theories of nationalism.
His involvement with Indonesia began with fieldwork in a poor urban kampung in Bandung (1983-84) and included stints as an advisor on research methods at LIPI (1986-90) and as a senior lecturer at the IAIN Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta (1991-94). After his return to the Netherlands, van Bruinessen took part in founding the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in 1998 and was one of its professors during 1999 through 2008. Since his formal retirement in 2011, he held visiting professorships in Indonesia as well as Turkey.
Country and Region Studies / Middle East and North Africa (MENA) / Religion in Contemporary Society / Southeast Asia and ASEAN / Working Papers
Last updated on 05/08/2019