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This theory of Islamic development was put forward by anthropologist Clifford Geertz in the 1950’s and 60’s.

He based his observations on a study of the town of ‘Modjukuto’ (which actually means ‘middle town’, and was devised as a way of protecting the privacy of those studied ) in a rural area of Java. Here, he described three types of Islam; ‘Santri’, ‘Abangan’, and ‘Priyayi’.

The abangan people are those greatly influenced by the traditional Javanese animist religions, they have combined their ancient rituals and beliefs with that of Islam. The santri place far more emphasis on the Islamic doctrines and their interpretation. Santri are interested in the social interpretation and view the scriptures as a way of life, and as a source of values and morals. Abangan perform many rituals, primarily concerned with their household and village. The santri place less emphasis on rituals, but still adhere strictly to prayer five times a day. Another important distinction is that the santri tradition has a far greater sense of the Islamic community, or ummah, but for the abangan the primary focus is on the household and family.

Priyayi was the term used to describe those Indonesians who were most closely associated with the Hindu traditions, and who styled their own form of Islam on this basis.

Why is this important to international relations today? Because it is this conflict between the two types of Islam which has partly caused the resurgence we are facing in Islamic fundamentalism.

Some followers of 'santri' Islam feel that they have been suppressed and subjugated through colonisation and Western values. To make up for this 'santri' Islam has promoted itself as a pure strain of the religion, and focuses on returning to the 'state of paradise', believed to have been during the time that the prophet lived (thousands of years ago).

Fundamentalism can therefore be seen as a response to the failure of Western ethics and capitalism to succeed in delivering benefits to the third world (much of which is Muslim). When we finally lose the last of the syncretic 'abangan' Islam, we may be faced with a polarised Islam vs Christianity situation.

Although this theory is only one component of the many which currently describe modern fundamentalism, it is one of the most simple and yet present problems which are most difficult to solve.

Not everything in this world and the next is centered on the West. :-) We of the West would like to think so, however the Indonesian condition is based on far more complex issues of interpersonal identity, and the formation of a stable and coherent social framework capable of satisfying on the one hand an intrinsic urge to religiosity present within the Indonesian culture from it's very earliest beginnings, while integrating the various social and cultural traditions in a way that is both uniquely Indonesian, modern and flexible, while at the same time without the negative drawbacks on can so readily perceive of the West from the view of cultures native to the Far East.

To say that the adoption of 'Islamic Fundamentalism' in Indonesia is a response to the West's failure to deliver presupposes that the entire valueset of the Indonesian archipelago is based entirely on the whims of the West. Such a ridiculous statement can and should be rejected as any cursory reading of the history and culture (1) of the region shows otherwise.

At many times during Indonesia's long and often bitter struggle for independance from colonialism there have been communal insurgent tendencies. First you had the wars against the portugese, then the dutch, then the british, then the dutch, and then the dutch, and then more dutch, and now finally many years on, it's not the dutch or or the political colonialism they're fighting it's capitalism, greed, and perhaps most notably, globalization.

These are not nice words. Capitalism and greed are what killed their ancestors, enslaved them, and subjected them to brutality. Deeply ingrained in the Indonesian national consciousness are the signs of these things repeating, and the equally deeply rooted need to fight them.

The colonialism may now be economic, but the effects are much the same: blinding poverty, a draining of the national wealth, a corresponding brain drain, political isolation, exploitation, and foreign troops on their soil. The indonesians are not stupid and Geertz is either wrong or naive not to see that Islamic Fundamentalism represents the strongest and most resilient system of personal and social organisation which is most likely to resist the negative impacts of globalisation while providing a unifying banner. And of course it's going to upset the oppressors and those who write for them. That's kind of the point.

In a country with 99% muslim population which happens to be the largest Islamic country on the planet, it would be odd for it's people not to find it comforting to go back to basics. Regardless of what people across the sea may, or may not be doing.

(1) Source : Soetjipto, H., Karamoy, W. A., Wuryani, M. S., et al., "INDONESIA 1995 : AN OFFICIAL HANDBOOK", Department of Information, Directorate of Foreign Information Services, Perum Percetakan Negara RI, 1994.

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