The Illusion of an Islamic State:
The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements in Indonesia

“Throwing a gauntlet down at the feet of radical Islam, a group of mainstream Muslim leaders led by former President Abdurrahman Wahid on Thursday announced the release of a book asserting that Indonesia is being infiltrated by foreign-funded extremists bent on turning the country into an Islamic state.”                                                                                ~ The Jakarta Globe, April 3, 2009

  Cover shows a statue of Indonesia's founding fathers proclaiming the nation’s independence, as a multi-religious and pluralistic state
(complete explanation of cover available here).

Thanks to the generosity of a major philanthropist, LibForAll recently completed a landmark project that exposed the origins, ideology, strategy & agenda of radical movements to the harsh glare of public scrutiny and condemnation in Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population and democracy.

The project entailed field research conducted in 24 districts in 17 provinces, by a team of 30 researchers from a network of Islamic state universities and institutes. Their interviews with 591 extremist leaders was further augmented by consultation with opinion leaders throughout Indonesia, and culminated in the April, 2009 publication of a book entitled The Illusion of an Islamic State: The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements in Indonesia.

Former Indonesian President H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid edited The Illusion of an Islamic State, which includes contributions from Kyai Haji Mustofa Bisri, renowned leader of the 40-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama, and Dr. Syafii Maarif, immediate past chairman of the 30-million-member Muhammadiyah and a 2008 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. These Muslim leaders, who help form the backbone of LibForAll Foundation, announced the book to the Indonesian elite and the international media on April 2nd, and officially introduced it to the Indonesian public at a high-profile event on May 16th in Jakarta.

The exposé ignited a nationwide firestorm of controversy following its official launch, and remained a major news story for weeks. As one indicator of the massive press coverage, Indonesia’s largest internet news site — with 10.5 million visitors a day — carried six separate stories about The Illusion of an Islamic State and the intense public debate surrounding it.

The Illusion of an Islamic State also went viral on the Internet, with nearly 45,000 copies downloaded from one LibForAll-sponsored website alone. Scores of other websites, including the main sites of the 40-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama and its 10-million-member youth movement, posted electronic copies of the book for download, while a Google search specifically targeting the book’s title, “Ilusi Negara Islam,” went from virtually zero to over 500,000 results within two weeks.

Equally heartening has been the global media coverage of the book, since the exposé’s systematic and authoritative refutation of extremist ideology makes it uniquely valuable not only to Indonesian society, but to governments and others interested in countering Islamist extremism worldwide. The Wall Street Journal, for example, praised The Illusion of an Islamic State as a “pathbreaking report”, and Channel News Asia rightly predicted, after the book’s soft launch in early April, that “the findings will certainly have some bearing on the country’s [i.e., Indonesia’s] politics.”

This landmark exposé has dramatically impacted radical political parties and groups in Indonesia – throwing them on the defensive, and helping to derail extremist ambitions to control Indonesia’s powerful vice-presidency.

In the words of Democracy Digest, published by the National Endowment for Democracy: “The Libforall Foundation is one of the rare success stories of an initiative in which moderate and liberal Muslims – too often the silent and disorganized majority – have organized effectively to counter radical Islamist groups by promoting democracy and tolerance.”

We need your help, to achieve similar results in other vital regions, such as South Asia (Pakistan/India/Bangladesh), the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. On behalf of President Wahid and other visionary Muslim leaders whose indomitable courage have made these achievements possible, I thank you for your own encouragement and support, which are also vital to the achievement of our mission.

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Official Launch: Witness the book's formal launch, which was held under the auspices of top religious leaders and heavily covered by the Indonesian press.

Going Viral on the Internet: Selected Indonesian Media/Internet coverage of The Illusion of an Islamic State as the book went viral (May 16 – June 4, 2009) and following the terrorist attacks of July 17, 2009 in Jakarta. See how The Illusion of an Islamic State quickly became the most widely-read and controversial book in Indonesia, the nation with the world's largest Muslim population and democracy. (100 pages; 14 MB/file size)

International Media Coverage: A sampling of international news stories generated by The Illusion of an Islamic State.

English Translation: Read key excerpts from The Illusion of an Islamic State in English.

Indonesian Original: Download a copy of Ilusi Negara Islam, in its original Indonesian version. (325 pages; 4.5MB/file size)

The Illusion of an Islamic State was jointly published by The Wahid Institute, the Maarif Institute and Gerakan Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Oneness Amid Diversity Movement").