With Australian impressions of Islam dominated by media images of Middle Eastern conflict, a Flinders academic says it pays to remember that millions of Muslims are living in Indonesia as part of a vibrant and diverse society.
Dr Priyambudi Sulistiyanto will be the moderator of a forum at the Festival Centre on Saturday (26 September), as part of the OzAsia Festival, of which Flinders University is a sponsor.
With a panel of Indonesian and Australian academics, Islam and Diversity in Contemporary Indonesia aims to generate a better understanding among Australians of the religion and culture of their near neighbours.
Dr Sulistiyanto said Islam took its place in Indonesia centuries ago alongside existing religions that included Hinduism and Buddhism. Currently it is one of five officially recognised religions.
“And beyond that, there are many local indigenous beliefs,” Dr Sulistiyanto said.
Dr Sulistiyanto says the character of Islam in Indonesia, which derives mainly from Sufi origins, tends to be meditative.
Raised in the Muslim family on the north coast of Java, Dr Sulistiyanto said he grew up quite familiar with the rituals and observances of other religions.
“Indonesian Islam reflects a diverse culture of different languages and ethnicities spread across the archipelago,” he said.
Dr Sulistiyanto says Islam in Indonesia exists harmoniously within a modern, secular state: he points to the active engagement of Muslim women at all levels of Indonesia society, including as MPs and academics, and in senior government roles.
And, he says, the secular basis of Indonesian government is secure: while there are five Muslim-based parties holding some 24 per cent of the seats in the parliament, they do not share a united agenda.
“There is always a fundamentalist element in every religion or ideological grouping, but to focus on that would be misleading,” Dr Sulistiyanto said.
“The consensus in Indonesia is that Islam is a religion for peace.”
The free forum runs from 3pm to 4.30pm in the Rehearsal Room (access via Dunstan Playhouse Foyer) of the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Information about this and other forums in the OzAsia Festival program can be found here.