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Rebranding Islam: Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, and the Making of “Moderate Islam” in Indonesia

Sat, March 18, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 2nd Floor, Civic Ballroom North

Abstract

In the wake of 9/11 and the Arab Uprising, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been keen to promote Indonesia as the model for “moderate Islam.” In his 2009 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Hasan Wirajuda touted Indonesia as evidence of the compatibility of moderate Islam, modernity, democracy, and religious freedom. More recently several Indonesian ministries and Islamic organizations have promoted moderate Islam as part of their domestic efforts to counter Wahhabi influence, domestic terrorism, and the spread of ISIS ideology. This presentation examines how Indonesia’s purported “moderate Islam” is constituted and contested through religious outreach and public diplomacy. In doing so, the author calls for a critical approach to the category of “moderate Islam,” arguing against assumptions of Indonesian exceptionalism that claim Indonesia is the home of moderate Islam.

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