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October 28, 2010: Dr. Robert Pringle and Dr. Michael H. Anderson

(Click to enlarge) From left to right, Dr. Robert Pringle and discussant Dr. Michael H. Anderson discuss Islam in Indonesia.

Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity


(Washington, DC) Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and the third largest democratic state, is home to a diverse society with its own unique form of Islam. It is also often inaccurately portrayed by the media. Dr. Robert Pringle spoke about his recently published book, Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity, which seeks to clearly outline the role of Islam in Indonesia, covering the history of Islam’s arrival, its development over time, as well as the role it plays in the politics of the growing democracy. Discussant Dr. Michael H. Anderson offered his insights into the contemporary role that Islam plays in Indonesian domestic politics and the US public diplomacy role in this important country.


Robert Pringle is a retired US Foreign Service Officer, historian and author. His thirty-seven year Foreign Service career included postings in Indonesia, the Philippines, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and Mali, where he was Ambassador. Dr. Pringle spent much of his subsequent Foreign Service career analyzing the politics of Islam in highly varied settings. Since his retirement in 2000, Dr. Pringle has been a freelance author, specializing in countries where he once served. Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity is his second book on Indonesia since retirement; in 2004, he published A Short History of Bali: Indonesia’s Hindu Realm , a brief but comprehensive history of the “Island of the Gods.” Pringle received his PhD in Southeast Asian history from Cornell University.

Michael H. Anderson is a recently retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, and a public diplomacy specialist with almost 30 years of experience in Asia. His last posting was in Indonesia, but he has also been assigned in India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Singapore. Previously, Dr. Anderson was a journalist, a teacher, a Peace Corps volunteer, and a UNICEF information officer. As an East-West Center grantee, he conducted research in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore; authored Madison Avenue in Asia: Politics and Transnational Advertising ; and co-edited Crisis in International News: Policies and Prospects. Anderson received his PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii.