Sample Book Review Paper on Book Report on Civil Islam by Robert W. Hefner


“Civil Islam” is a book that mainly focuses on the social anthropological and historical, sociological study of democratization in Indonesia, the world largest Muslim country (Hefner 6). Challenging stereotypes of Islam are regarded as hostile to democracy, the study of reformation and courage in the presence of nation terror depicts prospects for democracy in the world of Muslim and beyond. Hefner is the author of the book and has an extensive study of the association between the Islam and the democratic space in Indonesia for nearly a decade. For gathering information of his all his work, Hefner conducts a sequence of personal interviews with political leaders, intellectuals, and business people. Employing the personal interviews, Hefner expounds the impact of every individual to the formation of democracy in Indonesia.

The book has several chapters that range from chapter one up to eight that mostly talks about the story of the democratization Islam in Indonesia. Hefner comments that his American associates trusted that democracy and Islamic civil group will never work collectively. He goes on to indicate that this is an idea of the west and in the book, Hefner challenges these criticisms. Challenging the notion that states that democracy is not companionable with the social Islamic ideology, the author has several reasons. He reasons that democracy needs a civic society that comprises the balance of power, voluntarism, and independent link with the general culture where the entire habit of tolerance and participation exist regardless of the Islamic social philosophy (Hefner 215).

The book points out that democracy in the mid 1950s and with rich practices for civility and tolerance, Indonesia acceded to violence. In late 1965, Muslim revelries were subjected into the carnage of nearly one million communists. After the bloodshed, a “fresh Order” rule rose to power, subduing democratic systems and inaugurating tyrannical controls that lasted for several years. From this turbulence of conflicts, condemned by conformist Muslims and repressed by the government, a movement of the Islamic democracy developed, reinforced, and contributed a primary duty to the 1998 upheaval of the Soeharto government. In the year 1999, the Muslim leader Wahid Abdurrahman was voted President of a reformist.

In illustrating how the realizations were made to happen, the author stresses the significance of public civility and civil institutions and continue to state that neither the civil society nor democracy is achievable without a civilized country.  Against depictions of Islam as intrinsically undemocratic and antipluralist, he illustrates that Islamic reform group in Indonesia repudiated the objective of an Islamic nation; organized religiously ecumenical backing, encouraged women’s privileges, and advocated democratic epitomes. Well, this largely interdisciplinary and well-timed work amplifies the cognizance of democracy’s needed pluralism and puts Indonesia at the focus of our determinations to comprehend what aspects make democracy function.

Hefner closes by reiterating his stance that democracy requires civic society and general culture with tolerance and participation. The public ethos should be “scaled up” for good justice especially in future (Hefner 215). Civil Islam gives a sequence of events that occurred nearly a century ago about democracy, Islam, and state. In the book, Hefner has placed an objective viewpoint, which is very efficient in elucidating each event linked to the process of inaugurating democracy in Indonesian’s Islamic culture. Hefner has performed a commendable job in Civil Islam, by choosing a relevant case to how his thought that religion; particularly Islam is well-matched with democracy.


I agree with the author regarding the discussions he presents in the book. Well, Hefner presents valuable arguments to show that civil society and Islamic states are much compatible. He has since supported this by substantive evidence present in the political history of Indonesia. Therefore, this provides an essential contribution to our understanding of the changing aspects of modern-day Islam present in Indonesia.

I find the book vital and not misleading due to the following reasons. First, the three elements needed in the establishment of political culture are highly applicable and substantiated here. Local intellectuals must refer to their expertise and obtain classical political ethos that upholds the standards of mutual respect, voluntarism, and autonomy (Hefner 36). Second, for the formation of political philosophy, institutions should simplify democratic morals into a larger public sphere (Hefner 36). Various harmful acts like the NU’s massacre in the 1966 and the actions presents in the Soeharto regime made it very hard to attain true democracy in Indonesia. Finally, the reasoning concerning the political ethos mentioned above must always be supported by a range of supporting organizations including those that belong to the state. The essentials were made impossible by the Soeharto era that even went further to disregard the democracy within the parliament. Indonesia was able to overcome these barriers and prosperously established democracy (Azyumardi 200).

According to the events that occurred in Indonesia, Hefner verifies that the democracy in Indonesia was never delayed due to the discordant Islamic social philosophy. It belated since political culture, and civic organizations that must be scaled up were diminished and challenged nation as well as its organization. The book shows that the lack of aspects as mentioned earlier belated Indonesia’s democratization and not Islam.

Works Cited

Azyumardi, Azra. Indonesia, Islam, and Democracy: Dynamics in a Global Context. Sheffield : Equinox Publishing, 2006.

Hefner, Robert W. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.