Simplifying Indonesia’s realities does not do anyone any good

All blog posts by m.hellema


In “Cameron calls on Islam to embrace democracy and reject extremism” of 12 April 2012 the speech of Prime Minister David Cameron at the Al-Azhar University in Jakarta is described. Cameron’s comments that ‘Indonesia shows that (..) democracy and Islam can flourish alongside each other’will do neither Indonesia nor the countries it is supposed to inspire any good.

Firstly, by simplifying Indonesia as only being a democracy and Muslim, Cameron overlooks the great diversity of the population and the many components that have contributed to its current relative prosperity.

Secondly, it is time for Western leaders such a Cameron to recognize that economic and political development of many former developing countries, including Indonesia,require a new discourse and means of engagement. Merely celebrating their ‘inspirational path’ of development does not do any justice to the position they have in nowadays international community.

Lastly, the emphasis on democracy while in the same breath telling Muslims around the world what to do goes against the core principle of democracy. Part of the freedom of choice enshrined in democracy is the choice as to whether or not people want any ideology or religion to influence their country. Therefore questioning whether or not Islam and democracy can ‘flourish alongside each other’ is more of a criticism on what choices people make, than on the effectiveness of the system itself.

Instead, Cameron should recognize that Islam being its majority religion and democracy its political system are only two of the many aspects that constitute modern-day Indonesia. The prosperity and development of a country depends on much more. Only with such an understanding can the other countries that Cameron calls on to follow the example of Indonesia truly learn from its history.

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