Aspects of Islam in Post-Colonial Indonesia.
By C. A. O. VAN NIEUWENHUIJZE. The Hague and Bandung: W. van Hoeve, Ltd., 1958. Distributed in the U. S. by IPR. xii, 248. $5.00.

This collection of five rather disparate essays on the social role of Islam in contemporary Indonesia finds its unifying theme in the authorís consistent effort to interpret recent historical developments within the Indonesian Moslem community in terms of certain modern sociological ideas. Van Nieuwenhuijze, a former official in the Islamic Affairs section of Van Mookís short-lived Dutch administration of Indonesia after the war, employs such theoretical concepts as "the closed community," "revitalistic movements," and "deconfessionalization" in discussing a wide array of topics, including the cultural basis of Islamís appeal to Indonesians, the vicissitudes of reform and fundamentalist Moslem movements since the war, the character and effectiveness of Japanese policy toward Islam during the occupation, the place of the idea of freedom in Moslem doctrine, and the adjustment between Islam and the new nationalist and secular Indonesian State. The result is an excellent review of the major themes of recent Islamic thought and activity, firmly set within an explicitly outlined interpretive framework, but marred by a tendency to see Indonesian cultural and social organization in a much too simplistic, stereotyped fashion.

In his introductory essay Van Nieuwenhuijze sets forth his basic conception of the closed community, " a group of human beings existing as a self-integrated, isolated-and-independent, self-sufficient unit which is closed with regard to the rest of the human race." This sort of community, of which traditional Indonesian villages are held to be an example, is marked by magico-religiously based authority patterns, an all-encompassing rule of custorn and a lack of interest in personal freedom and responsibility, a high valuation of collective harmony, a world view in which the whole universe is seen as but a macrocosm of local culture patterns, etc. When, due to increased contact with the outside world, this highly integrated community pattern is disturbed, the result is moral disruption, intellectual confusion, and intense emotional insecurity. The strong interpersonal ties weaken in the face of economic and social individualism, the natural world view collapses in the face of events it cannot interpret, and the religiously supported patterns of authority break down in the face of secularization, leaving the bewildered villager amid the debris of a collapsed social structure. "The way of life of the closed cornmunity is fundamentally and completely destroyed, beyond repair, before any community member gets a chance to become aware of what has happened."

The remaining essays are then concerned with interpreting present-day Moslem thought and practice in Indonesia as a response to this disintegration of the closed community. On the one hand there is the "revitalistic" response represented by the terrorist Dar ul-lslam movement in West Java, in which the totalitarian elements in Islam are employed in a desperate attempt to restore the closed community in all its pristine glory. The history of this movement is traced in detail to demonstrate the manner in which it represents an effort to reinstitute the emotional security characteristic of the primitive collectivism of traditional society, the author arguing that although this particular movement may ultimately die of military and economic exhaustion, the ideal it represents forcibly to rebuild traditional society will not die "unless socio-spiritual uncertainty is alleviated by a genuine welfare policy." On the other hand there is the "modernist" response of those political party groups which have tried to "deconfessionalize" certain Moslem concepts by turning them into secular ideological doctrines so as to make them broadly acceptable to both the highly orthodox and the but vaguely pious. Van Nieuwenhuijze insists, however, that in the absence of genuine theological reform, the sort of partial secularization of Moslem thought represented by President Sukarnoís Pantja-Sila ideological foundation for the Indonesian State and the theoretically neutral Ministry of Religion in the Djakarta cabinet is essentially unstable and must either proceed to full secularization or revert to simple orthodoxy.

Aside from its occasionally supercilious tone, Van Nieuwenhuijzeís often perceptive analysis suffers from a global and almost totally undifferentiated view of Indonesian social structure and culture. The "fall from paradise" interpretation he presents far oversimplifies the processes of change in Indonesia in the past three hundred years, and the notion of the closed community is so broad and diffuse as to become chimerical when seen in the light of the actual details of village life and thought. In the course of his attempt to give a sociological interpretation of Indonesian Islam, Van Nieuwenhuijze has derived many acute insights, particularly concerning the interrelated dynamics of Islamic terrorism and Islamic reform, but for a comprehensive analysis of the social role of Islam in Indonesia his theoretical ideas are far too gross, his picture of Indonesian life far too general.

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

Book Review, in: The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3 (May, 1959), 398-399.


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