Comparison of the Political Perceptions between Radical Islam and Moderate Islam in Indonesia in the Reform Era

Vice Executive Director of InMind Institute Prof. Dr. Firman Noor, M.A. wrote his research about the similarities and differences between radical and moderate Muslims in Indonesia regarding political issues. His research was published by Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (LIPI) or Indonesian Institute of Sciences on Jurnal Penelitian Politik at 2016. The PDF is accessible on

The basic perceptions of the Islamic Radical groups such as emphasizing literal approaches for understanding Islam, conceming text more than context and giving a priority to the era of the Prophet in the 7th Century; has influenced their perceptions about Islam as a total and integrated religion and formal relations between Islam and politics. These opinions eventually become a basis for their other opinions such as the urgency of implementing Syari’ah Islam formally, the establishment of an Islamic State and the tendency to be unenthusiastic to the existence of the nation state.

Moreover, in line with their exclusive characteristics such as tend to be literal and textual in understanding Islam, acknowledging pluralism in the narrow perspectives, regarding Western ideas in pessimist way and tend to glorify Islamic history; the radicals tend to have negative opinions of democracy. In general, even though they agree to the concept of Syura (the consensus), which was taught by the Prophet, the radicals generally believe that Islam principally is incompatible with democracy. This kind of perception is actually reflected in their narrow opinion about pluralism, which basically though they honor the existence of non-Muslim groups, the radicals have no intentions to give an equal political access for non-Muslim groups.

Meanwhile, for the moderates, by implementing their perspectives such as regarding Islam as a “substantive guidance” in dealing with the state, believing that Islamic histories as a lesson that do not bind Muslims principally, implementing “contextualization approaches” for understanding Islam and having willingness to be tolerant; they tend to create a moderate perceptions, particularly with regarded to the relations between Islam and state, an Islamic State, Syari’ah Islam and the existence of Indonesia as a nation state with Pancasila as the basis.

In addition, with regard to their viewpoints that honoring pluralism, believing in substance than the name, giving priority to open-minded attitudes and think inclusively; the moderates tend to have a positive reaction to democracy, which is mainly regarded as the systems that in line with the spirits of Islam such as justice, equality and consensus. As a reflection to this attitude, the moderates tend to comprehensively accept and honor the existence of non-Muslim groups by not only acknowledging their existence but also providing trust and an equal access to them.

The phenomenon of the existence of the radical Islamic groups and the moderate Islamic groups (with all their similarities and differences) in the reform era in g eneral not only demonstrates that politics is an inseparable issue for Muslims in Indonesia, but it also indicates that Islam will never be a monolithic group in this country.

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