Islam and the Dutch in the East Indies: Oppression or Opportunity?

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Dutch colonial ambitions in the East Indies had to contend with Islam, and this contention intensified as colonisation progressed and Islamisation deepened. The Dutch made pragmatic alliances with Muslim leaders and sultans in pursuit of trade dominance and profits. This, combined with protestant reformation in the Netherlands, allowed for significant religious freedom in the East Indies. The Dutch did proselytize Christianity, with most success in the Outer Islands to the east, mostly because of an absence of a major established religion in those areas. They favoured coexistence over religious wars. In order to improve the lives of locals, Islamic movements were permitted to establish enduring institutions. In the early twentieth century, this included the two largest Muslims groups in the world, the traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama and the reformist Muhammadiyah, which coincided with the emergence of political Islam in the form of the Islamic Traders Party. These formed important socio-religious structures that influenced political thought and modern state institutions, including the state ideology, the Pancasila, and the constitution, which obliged the state to accommodate religion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-587
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Legacy
Issue number5
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

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