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Islam, Nationalism and Democracy

A Political Biography of Mohammad Natsir

Audrey Kahin

Publication Year: 2012

As Indonesia's leading Muslim politician in the second half of the 20th century, Mohammad atsir (1980-1993) went from heading the country's first post-independence government and largest Islamic political party to spending years in rebellion and in jail under the Soekarno regime. After initially welcoming Soekarno's overthrow in 1965, he became one of the most outspoken critics of the successor Suharto government's increasingly autocratic rule. Natsir's copious writings stretch from his student days in the late colonial period, when his debates with Soekarno over the character of Indonesian nationalism first attracted public attention, to the years immediately preceding his death when his trenchant criticisms brought him the enmity of the Suharto regime. They reveal a man struggling to harmonize his deep Islamic faith with his equally firm belief in national independence and democracy. Drawing from a wide range of materials, including these writings and extensive interviews with the subject, this political biography of Natsir places the important Muslim politician and thinker in the context of a critical period of Indonesia's history, and describes his vision of how a newly independent country could embrace religion without sacrificing its democratic values.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Half Title, Title, Copyright pages

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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p. v-v

Maps, Illustrations

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pp. vi-vii


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p. viii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In late September 1961, Mohammad Natsir crouched on a hillside in the interior of Sumatra accompanied by fewer than ten followers. The man who a decade earlier had served as Indonesia’s prime minister and head of its largest political party knew that all his options had now vanished. He had just learned that his long-time friend Dahlan Djambek, the last military commander to stay on to protect him, was dead — gunned down on September 13 in a ...

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Chapter 1. Childhood, Education and Influence from his Minangkabau Homeland

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pp. 1-8

Mohammad Natsir was born on July 17, 1908, in the small town of Alahan Panjang, which lies in the foothills of Sumatra’s highest mountain, Mt. Kerinci (3,805 meters), in the southern part of what was then the Dutch Governorship of Sumatra’s West Coast. Stretching across the equator, West Sumatra is home to the Minangkabau people who term the region “the Minangkabau world” ...

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Chapter 2. Nationalist and Religious Involvement, 1929-42

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pp. 9-36

In the late 1920s gifted or privileged young people from throughout the Netherlands East Indies congregated in the West Java city of Bandung where most of the advanced Western-education schools in the archipelago were concentrated. As a result, Bandung became the center of anti-colonial discussion and activity embracing all forms of the new Indonesian nationalism. In the ...

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Chapter 3. Entering the Political Arena, 1942-50

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pp. 37-62

In mid-February 1942 the first Japanese troops parachuted into South Sumatra and on March 1 they landed in Java. Within eight days Lt. Gen. Ter Poorten, the Dutch commander on Java, surrendered to the invading forces.
The Japanese invasion marked a decisive turning point in the history of Indonesia, revealing the weakness of the Dutch and providing leaders of the Indonesian nationalist movement with the means for eventually achieving the ...

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Chapter 4. Leading the Government, 1950-51

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pp. 63-89

On January 16, 1950, the Dutch transferred sovereignty, not to the Indonesian Republic that had been its adversary for the previous five years, but to the Federated States of Indonesia (RIS, Republik Indonesia Serikat) made up of both the Republic and the BFO (Bijeenkomst voor Federaal Overleg, Federal Consultative Assembly), a federation of states, mostly outside Java and Sumatra,...

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Chapter 5. From Loyal Opposition to Rebellion, 1951-57

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pp. 90-113

Natsir’s cabinet resigned on March 21, 1951, but at that time it was by no means clear that the move would end his leadership position in the government. He still headed the Masjumi, probably the strongest of the political parties, and there was no clear candidate to succeed him in the prime minister-ship. When President Soekarno invited Sartono of the National Party (PNI) to form a new ...

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Chapter 6. In the Jungle, 1958-61

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pp. 114-138

When he fled to Sumatra, Natsir was returning to his home region. Throughout his long sojourn on Java his upbringing in West Sumatra had exerted an influence on most aspects of his life, including his strong religious faith and his belief in the form of grass-roots democracy that characterized village government in the Minangkabau heartland. During his years in government, however, he had frequently needed to subordinate these beliefs to what he saw ...

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Chapter 7. Surrender and Imprisonment, 1961-67

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pp. 139-153

By the end of 1959 government forces had pushed ever further into the interior of Central Sumatra. They had advanced into the regions of Pariaman and Tanah Datar early in the year, taking over several of the major rebel strongholds.1 The rebels had attempted to regroup, but their proclamation of the Federal Government (RPI) in February 1960 marked the beginning of the end....

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Chapter 8. Return to the Jakarta Political Scene

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pp. 154-180

After Suharto crushed the Untung group, Soekarno spent months trying to shore up his power and protect the Communist Party from the pogrom that had been unleashed against it, but he was out-maneuvered by Suharto. On March 11, 1966, Soekarno was compelled to delegate to General Suharto the authority “to take all necessary steps to guarantee security and calm and the ...

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Chapter 9. The Closing Years

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pp. 181-212

After the advent of the New Order regime, while Natsir was largely excluded from the domestic political scene in Indonesia he devoted increasing attention to developments in the international arena, and, through the Dewan Da’wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), forged ties between the Islamic community in Indonesia and Muslim movements in the Middle East....

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pp. 213-216

Prior to his fall in 1998, Suharto refused to grant Natsir any recognition for his services to Indonesia in the Revolution and in the early years of independence when he served as prime minister and Masjumi party leader. But since the overthrow of the New Order Natsir’s reputation has continued to grow within the country, and his contributions to Indonesian history have been acknowledged and honored. B.J. Habibie, during his short tenure as president,...


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pp. 217-225


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pp. 226-236

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696245
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695712

Page Count: 350
Illustrations: 30 images
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: New