The Battle for Meaning: Christians and Muslims at Odds over Indonesian Constitutionalism


The abortion debate in Indonesia is a fitting illustration of the global trend toward liberalization of access to abortion across the world. In Indonesia, this phenomenon cannot be separated from the constitutional reform that took place more than a decade ago. This phenomenon immediately raises a question of how Muslims and Christians will respond to the new notion of constitutionalism. Read the full article »

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Nahdlatul Ulama: good governance and religious tolerance in Indonesia


Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, has been poorly understood in the West. While most Western political commentators and policy makers absorb an almost daily dose of news or intelligence regarding Islamist extremist organizations or terrorist groups in the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, there is far less information and understanding of Muslim peacemakers, moderate-progressive groups, and organizations that advocate for tolerance and pluralism. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is one of the world’s foremost Muslim associations devoted to the spread of the Islamic message of justice, peace, and tolerance. Read the full article »

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A case of imperial aggression, not contending modernities


There may be examples of a “clash between modernities,” but the recent wave of protests in several Muslim majority countries against the so-called “innocence of Muslims” film was not one of them. Indeed, protests by Muslims should be accepted as part of the process of “negotiating” the appropriate limits of two varieties of free speech. If the movie maker in this case is exercising his right to free speech, so are Muslims who are protesting the excessively vulgar ways in which he expressed his views. But it is equally clear that violence is never justified.

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An interfaith encounter with America (Part 3)

Believers in a religion such as Islam can scarcely hope to speak for all Muslims, let alone for all humanity. They must accept the authority of a public sphere in which people are free to make their case to their fellow women and men on the basis of culturally normative modes of discourse. This sounds exactly like the manner in which prophets used to operate back in the day. Moses defeated the magicians in pharaoh’s court, and Muhammad outdid the Arab poets on their home turf.

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An interfaith encounter with America (Part 1)

“If Islam is so great and things are so wonderful back home, why did you come here?” As an international student from Pakistan who had grown up in a relatively privileged household, my transition to college life in America had promised to be seamless. And in many ways it was, at least outwardly. So my culture shock was extraordinarily abrupt. In the course of a midnight conversation on religion and politics, a fellow student had jolted me out of my comfort zone with his jarring question.

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Cooperating modernities in Tunisia?


In April, Columbia political scientist Alfred Stepan came out with an article in the Journal of Democracy on “Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations.” If the article is right, Tunisia’s secularists and Islamists are participating in an encouraging pattern of political cooperation that bodes well for the country’s democratic development. There is good reason to be hopeful about the relevance of an emerging “Tunisian model” of secular-Islamist negotiation, not only for Tunisia’s future but for all those countries affected by the Arab Spring. Yet there is also reason for caution.

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Pakistan: between betrayed dream and desire to rebuild


Pakistan’s polity today does not reflect the ideals set by her founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, outlining a pluralistic democracy and religious freedom. But the undying spirit of the Pakistani people and their enduring commitment to true democracy—which braved executions, imprisonments, flogging and torture to oppose and defeat four despotic military regimes in 60 years—demonstrate that a new Pakistan can be built.

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