Reconsidering the modern nation state in the Anthropocene
A Muslim's perspective
This article presents the nature of conflicts in postcolonial societies as the consequence of being under external control and economic exploitation. Drawing on empirical cases from Indonesia and a comparative literature review of African states, this article reveals a huge dilemma within the desire to build a solid nation state in a deeply pluralistic society. The nature of the modern nation state, which from the start requires the forcible subjugation of the population, has become one of the greatest paradoxes. That is to say, the very idea of unity for the pursuance of equity contradicts the premise of democracy, because forcing unity onto diversity implies denouncing differences and thus violating universal individual rights to be different. On that account, Indonesia’s struggle with diversity has falsified Huntington’s thesis, according to which cultural differences necessarily tend to lead to conflict. On the contrary, Indonesia demonstrates that conflicts have stemmed from nationalism and political-economic ideologies rather than cultural differences. This article highlights two issues of global relevance. Firstly, the inherent problems of coexistence that arise from the legacy of the Christian missionary tradition advocating the separation of the state and religion in the colonies, whereas Islam is a religion of politics and of law. Secondly, the concept of al-din is hardly compatible with the Western concept of religion. In contemporary globalization, the modern nation state and nationalism are increasingly contrasted with the ‘cosmic’ nature of religion, which claims allegiances transcending differences of race and nationality. On the bright side, a case study of a Muslim ‘intentional community’ offers a pragmatic solution whereby an implementation of Islamic jurisprudence as a response to ecological issues by an individual Muslim group is doable within the constraints of a nation state. Thus the thesis moves beyond the rigidity of state system and promotes a ‘people to people’ approach.