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Civic Islam: Muhammadiyah, NU and the Organisational Logic of Consensus-making in Indonesia

Civic Islam: Muhammadiyah, NU and the Organisational Logic of Consensus-making in Indonesia



Civil Islam notes a tendency or orientation within Indonesian political Islam that is broadly compatible with electoral democracy and religious pluralism. Scholarly and popular discourses on Islam in Indonesia frequently situate the Muslim civic organisations Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) within this tradition. Muhammadiyah and NU do play important roles in both reproducing democratic norms and upholding the state’s formal commitment to religious pluralism. However, this is not because of an ideological commitment to civil Islam, but rather an organisational logic of risk management – which shapes both the timing of their interventions in politics and the compromise-oriented solutions they propose. Drawing on analysis of parliamentary contention over pornography and the legal status of the Ahmadiyah sect, I argue that these “big tent” organisations seek compromise solutions designed to preserve their own levels of influence and overcome their own internal ideological cleavages. This article thus suggests a new category of analysis – civic Islam – to describe organisations whose policy interventions are driven more by internal factors than by an ideological commitment to the civil Islamic project.