Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia

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By Edward Aspinall

Rooted in the latest theoretical debates about nationalism and ethnicity, yet written in an accessible and engaging style, Islam and Nation presents a fascinating study of the genesis, growth and decline of a nationalist movement.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews with nationalist leaders, activists and guerillas, Aspinall reveals how the Free Aceh Movement went from being a quixotic fantasy to a guerilla army in the space of a generation, leading to a bitter conflict in which thousands perished. And by exploring the complex relationship between Islam and nationalism, Aspinall also explains how a society famed for its Islamic piety gave rise to a guerilla movement that ended up rejecting the Islamic goals of its forebears.

Islam and Nation is a tour de force in the study of nationalist politics. It will be of great interest to readers concerned about Southeast Asia, Islamic politics, ethnic conflict and nationalism everywhere.


"Aspinall's book is scholarship of the highest order, and is likely to remain the reference point for subsequent reflections on the conflict in Aceh for years to come." - Joseph Chinyong Liow

"This book is a highly readable, dynamic, and lucid exposition about the ideas and activities of GAM...[It] steers clear of the extremes that hamper many works about GAM--some works paint GAM as little more than a coercive terroristic movement motivated by its own interests, or laud GAM's members as heroes driven to armed struggle by brutal Indonesian rule. Aspinall's work avoids those caricature...As a skilful writer, with solid research behind him, he succeeds in presenting a historically grounded and multifaceted picture of GAM. This book is a thought-provoking and, at the same time, easy to read analysis of Acehnese society nad the conditions that gave birth to GAM...Aspinall's work is quite an achievement, and will prepare readers well for whatever happens next." - Vanessa Hearman


Edward ASPINALL is a Senior Fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.


Publication Year: 2009
312 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-485-2, Paperback

NUS Press