Islam, Pluralism and Democracy

by Mark Woodward

It is now common in both academic and policy circles to ask the question “Where are the liberal Muslims?” Abrurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia, leads the world’s largest Muslim organization and advocates for human rights, democracy and religious pluralism. In 1990 he wrote a paper, translated here by Mark Woodward, which was strongly critical of the Suharto regime. When that regime collapsed in 1997, Wahid worked to ensure that the political process did not become a vehicle for sectarian strife, and in doing so helped prevent radicals from dominating Indonesian political and religious discourse as they have in many other Muslim countries. Because of his strong religious credentials, Wahid’s paper provides a case study of how Islamic ideas can function as arguments promoting democratic politics.