Religion as in most Muslim majority countries is an important part of Indonesian life. Religion influence political, cultural and economical trends in the country. The great monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism) are practiced in Indonesia, although Islam is dominant. Indonesia is a very diverse country. And along with the great religious traditions, there are also primitive cultures that practice animist believes in Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, and other locations. There are several unique religious beliefs among some communities in Java, Bali, and Sumatra. Some areas have a very mixed religious pattern: parts of Sumatra, Celebes, the Moluccas, have a Christian majority or large Christian minorities even among the non-Chinese population. Even on Java, which is predominantly Muslim, Roman Catholics may amount to up to 10 percent in some areas. Religion among other important influenced affecting fashion. Islam, though requiring modesty, has never set rules as to the actual length of trousers, certainly not for men.
Islam is the predominant religion in Indonesia. About 85 percent of the populaion are estimated to be Muslim. Islam was brought to what is now Indonesia by armed Arab traders (12th century). It appeared first in northern Sumatra. This is of course the western most point in Indonesia and leads to the Straits of Malacca and the rest of the archepeligo. The Arabs as they trades helped spread Islam south and east. The Arans trades witn the various principalities that had developed along the coasts. There was no unified state. Thus Islam in Indonesia became a trading religion. It competed with the Hindu-Buddistic religion traditions already established and adhered to by the local kings and princes. Eventually Islam began to penetrate beyond the coast and was adopted by common people. This seems to have occurred first on Java (14th century). Java became largely Islmaicized. Hindu kings and their courts fled to Bali. The most devout Muslims are said to live in Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra. There is a tradition of resistance to central authority here and the people in Aceh have resisted central control, both from the Dutch or Indonesian authorities since independence. Aceh was an independent Islamic state and has today a special status within Indonesia. On Java, the most important islamic organisation today is Nadhlatul Ulama (NU). This is a relaxed form of islam, influenced by both traditional values and Islamic scriptures. Islam played an important role in the Indonesian nationalist movement that began to resist Dutch colonialism (early-20th century). The modernistic Muhammadiyah was founded (1912). Their concept of modernism was to purify Islam from non-Islamic local tradition (adat) which they considered backwater. They wanted to adopt an Islam based solely on the Koran and the Hadith/Sunnah. At the same time they wanted to modernize the Islamic world with western scientific learning. Muhammadiyah began as a small group which met considerable resistance from traditionalists. The Minangkabau on Sumatra recognized Muhammadiyah (1925) which permitted the organisation to grow. From this point it grew rapidly. They had 250,000 members (1935). After independence, under both Sukarno and Suharto, Islamic demands wre generally muted by secular nationalism. There were some notable outbursts of violence. In the disorders involved with the overthrow of Suharto, there were attacks on the Chinese (1997-98). Here the motivation is difficult o assess as there were racial, religious, and economic factors involvded. The police and army did not react until the demonstrations began to be aimed at the Government. Islam is not just a religion. The Koran proscribes a governmrnt controlled by Islam. And like other Muslim countries, there is an Islamicist movement which desires to seize control of the state and end secular rule.
The Spanish (Magellan) and the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach what is now Indonesaia. Portuguese Jesuits and Dominicans were active in the Malukus, southern Sulawesi, and Timor (16th century). The Durtch also reached the islands and defeated the Portuguese (1605P. The Durtch expelled the Catholic missionaries. The Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church became virtually the only Christian sect active in the islands for the next 300 years. Dutch policies did not lead to mass conversion. The United East Indies Company (VOC) was a business enterprise. It gave little attention to social efforts like education or religion. And the Calvinist dictrine was both austere and strict. Understanding it required Bible study and intellectual effort. Thus by the turn-of-the-19th century there were only small numbers of Indonesian Christians. A few small communities were established in Java, Maluku, northern Sulawesi, and Nusa Tenggara (primarily Roti and Timor). The Dutch dissolved the VOC during the Napoleoniv Wars (1799). They proceeded in the 19th century to implement a more comprehensive colonial policy in Indonesia. As part of the adoption od a colonial administration, more attention was given to religion. The Dutch opened the islands to proselytizing. Missionaries arrived from Europe. More tolerant German Lutherans began working among the Batak of Sumatra (1861) and by the Dutch Rhenish Mission in central Kalimantan and central Sulawesi. Jesuits established mission schools, and hospitals throughout the islands of Flores, Timor, and Alor. Many new Protestant missionary groups as well as Catholicism worked in Indonesaia in the early 20th cdntury befpre World War II. The missionary emphasis on education meant that a high proprtion of educated Indonesians were Christians Slightly under 10 percent of the Indonesian population at the time of independence were believed to be Christians. General Suharto seized control of Indonesia to prevent a Communist take over (1965). Large numbers of people believed sympathetic to the Communists were killed. The Chimese in particular were suspect. Many Chinese adopted Christianity to prove that they were not Communists. This caused problems with Islamicists. There are some small areas in Christian predominate in the Moluccas and on Kalimantan. The island of Flores is largely Christian.
Southeast Asia including the Indonesian arcipelago was predominately Buddhist. Burma, Cambodia, and Thiland are still precominatly Buddhist. Buddhism predominated in the courts on both Sumatra and Java. The great Borobudur temple is believed to be Buddhist. Today in Indonesia there are very few Buddhism in Indonesia. It still has a minor influence within the Chinese community.
Hindism was brought to Indonesian by Indian traders. It was before the arrival of Islam, a major religion throughout the archipelago. Today it is primarily found on Bali where it is the dominant religion.
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