Written by Maurisa Zinira
The progress of Islamic studies in Indonesia is quite extensive. This can be seen from the variety of research models that have developed. Although the debate around Islam and the West is still ongoing and religious sectarianism remains strong, Indonesia’s intellectual climate is relatively open to various views and alternative ideas.
In her book Whose Islam? The Western University of Modern Islamic Thought in Islam, Megan Brankley Abbas said that modern Indonesian Islamic thought cannot be separated from the influence of Western universities. This book was discussed at the Reading in Social Science (RISOS) forum held April 22, 2002 entitled “Hantu Imperialisme Akademis? Universitas Barat dan Pemikiran Islam Modern di Indonesia” (The Ghost of Academic Imperialism? Western Universities and Modern Islamic Thought in Indonesia). In her book, Abbas argues that those who studied in the West returned to Indonesia and brought renewal to Indonesian Islamic thought. However, some circles are still haunted by negative stereotypes about the West. She asks whether is true that there is an imperialism agenda in the Western knowledge of Islam? To discuss the topic, the forum invited alumni of Western education such as Saiful Mujani, Yeni Ratna Yuningsih, and Zainal Abidin Bagir whose experiences resonate with what Megan addressed in the book.