Booni Hargens, writing in the Jakarta Post, argues Indonesia does not have an historic sense of democracy and concern for the welfare of ordinary people because its elite stands apart from the lives of citizens. “There is still no democratic imagination among our elites. Democratic imagination refers to a set of capabilities to imagine the essence of basic principles like the common good, justice, deliberation and equality.” He believes leadership of his nation lacks vision and courage to fight for democracy in a country in which religious fundamentalists too frequently dominate the debate and stifle forces of independence. Hargens argues three factors will determine success in Indonesia-a free market, a civil society based on democratic principles and changes by the elite to become more active in the democratic process.
There is no question Indonesia is less impacted by militant violent Islamic forces than other Muslim nations such as Pakistan. Indonesia contains Christian groups who have freedom of religion, but even this is under attack from Muslim fundamentalists. Hargens is correct in calling for greater participation in government by moderate Muslim leaders who all too often allow fundamentalists to take the stage of claiming to speak for all Indonesians.