This book comes as part of a series called ‘Briefings’ from the University of New South Wales Press on current affairs. The author, Greg Barton, is a senior lecturer in the School of Social and International Studies at Deakin University. He’s also written a bio on former Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid. Indonesia's Struggle is only about 90 pages, so you can knock it off in an afternoon.
For Australians trying to get a grip on terrorism in our region, this is a good little primer. One of the author’s main concerns is the current tendency to reduce Islam to one simple, ideological template. Media portrayal of Muslims has certainly done a good job in conflating Islam and terrorism in the minds of its viewers. Barton goes further in saying that even a lot of commentators in the print media have an overly simplified understanding of Islam. It is crucial that this stop, Barton insists, and that we learn more deeply about the differences within Islam itself.
The book gives a short history of Islamic struggle in Indonesia post independence, and shows that radical, Isalmic groups, calling for the country to be run along the principles of Sharia law, are nothing new. The terrorist challenges we face are certainly not simple. Barton also argues that Indonesia might not be the ‘moderate’ Islamic country we all think it to be. He says it’s not impossible to imagine that a small group of radicals could take over the country and turn it into something like Pakistan.
This is a densely written, albeit brief, book that concentrates the mind wonderfully on possible future problems for Australian relations with Indonesia.