This comparative study is part of a broader intellectual history of the Muslim world involving the formulation of alternative Islamic discourses by contemporary Muslim intellectuals. I have identified Indonesia and Turkey as two new cardinal points in the cartography of this innovative contemporary Muslim thinking, because both countries evince an important and perhaps crucial transformation in the outlook of religious intellectuals. Here I will primarily concentrate on the parallels between Indonesia and Turkey regarding new engagements with religion in the public sphere as a part of articulations of civil society in the Muslim world, which have begun to emerge at the close of the second and the beginning of the third millennium. The choice of the term ‘parallel’ is deliberate, because tracing parallels strikes
me as less reductionist than a search for similarities or commonalities. It will leave the most room for specific trajectories within culturally particular contexts of the two countries that are accommodative of a plurality of manifestations of religiosity and the simultaneous recognition of universal values, which characterizes the dispositions, attitudes, practices and modes of expression of these contemporary Muslim intellectuals. In spite of their wide geographical separation, vast cultural differences, and variance in religious factors influencing the establishment of the Turkish and Indonesian republics, I suggest that – between the mid-1980s and 1990s – it has become increasingly manifest that the divergent political-historical experiences of these two Muslim countries are converging onto closer parallel tracks in terms of redefining and expressing the role of religion in public life. In the wake of the 1997 ‘Post-Modern’ Coup in Turkey and in the course of
Indonesia’s Post-Suharto Reformasi era (begun in 1997-98), new Muslim or religious intellectuals in both countries have re-invented themselves yet again along alternative discursive lines. In Indonesia these ideas are presented under the rubrics of cultural, civil or cosmopolitan Islam predominantly by young cadres of the traditionalist Islamic mass organization the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) or its youth wing, Anak Muda NU. Their newly formulated discourse is referred to as Post-Traditionalisme – or Postra, for short. The Turkish parallel is formed by a ‘Post-Islamist’ discursive formation articulated by religious intellectuals who have left behind their political agendas of the 1980s and early 1990s.