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Indonesia: legitimacy, secular democracy, and Islam
journal contributionposted on 2010-06-01, 00:00 authored by Greg BartonGreg Barton
In the tumultuous final months of the Suharto regime, few predicted that in 2010 Southeast Asia would have one successful democratic nation marked by political openness, social stability, and steady economic growth-and that that nation would be Indonesia. The success of the world's third largest democracy is all the more remarkable because it is also the world's largest Muslim country. Secular democracy and Islam are widely thought to be antithetical. It is commonly believed that either secularism or democracy might prevail in Muslim-majority states but not both together. Indonesia's democratic transition challenges this assumption and draws attention to the generally positive and substantial contribution of Islamic leaders and Islamic civil society movements to reform and democratization. And poor polling by Islamist parties suggests that for the vast majority of Indonesians, secular democracy and Islam are absolutely compatible and that the main source of legitimacy is good governance and its fruits.