Islam, Nationalism and Democracy: a Political Biography of Mohammad Natsir

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By Audrey R. Kahin

As Indonesia's leading Muslim politician in the second half of the 20th century, Mohammad Natsir (1908-1993) went from heading the country's first post-independence government and largest Islamic political party to spending years in rebellion and in prison. 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 positions an 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.

"Natsir has long deserved a serious biography, so Audrey Kahin's book is welcome and valuable." - M.C. Ricklefs

“This is the first biography of him in English, something several scholars have called for in the two decades since Natsir’s passing. Kahin is able to draw on several lengthy interviews with Natsir, as well as personal papers from the family, interviews with a broad swathe of Islamic leaders from the 1950s, and exhaustive knowledge of the secondary literature in both English and Indonesian.”- Kevin Fogg

An editor and historian, Audrey R. KAHIN was managing editor of Southeast Asia publications and editor of the journal Indonesia at Cornell University from 1978-1995. She is currently a member of the journal's editorial advisory board.

Publication Year: 2012
264 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-571-2, Paperback

NUS Press