Answer to Map #58

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Answer: This week’s map was a choropleth showing the percentage of the population of each province of Indonesia that practices Islam.

Indonesia, which is the fourth most populous country in the world, has the most Muslims of any country. Indonesia has around 225 million Muslims, slightly more than second-place Pakistan, which has about 200 million. India is in third place with around 180 million, which is a remarkable figure because only about 14% of India’s population is Muslim. India has such an enormous population overall that even its minority religions are well represented by absolute number. In fact, the Pew Research Center projects that India will have the world’s highest Muslim population by 2050; Indonesia will have fallen to third.

Just because Islam is the dominant religion of Indonesia, however, doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of religious diversity in that country. On this map, you can see a few provinces stand out for being especially light, indicating that the Muslim population is low. The island of Bali, for example, is clearly visible on this map between two much darker provinces. Bali is traditionally Hindu. You can also see part of the island of Timor, which has a large Roman Catholic population. East Timor, which was colonized by the Portuguese and which is now an independent country, is one of only two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (along with the Philippines). We have talked about East Timor in the solutions to Map #7 and Map #11.

The data used to make this map came from the 2010 Indonesian census. The darkest shade incidates provinces where more than 90% of the population is Muslim. The province with the highest percentage of Muslims is Aceh, at 98.2%, which also happens to be the only Indonesian provinces that uses shariah as its local legal system. The province with the lowest percentage of Muslims is Nusa Tenggara Timur, which includes the western part of the island of Timor. About 9.1% of that province’s population is Muslim.

The province of Papua also shows up clearly on this map. Only about 15.9% of the population of Papua is Muslim. There, the most popular religion is Protestant Christianity. This fact means that Papua contrasts with Nusa Tenggara Timur, where most people are Catholic.

In a country as diverse as Indonesia, it is inevitable that there are going to be independence movements in some far-flung places. East Timor, of course, succeeded in gaining independence in 2002. Interestingly, there have been active separatist movements this century in provinces at both ends of the spectrum presented on this week’s map, including in Papua and in Aceh.

Indonesia’s religious diversity has been very much in the news in 2017. This year, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, usually known simply as “Ahok,” ran for governor of Jakarta. Ahok was the incumbent in that position, having succeeded to the office when Joko Widodo because president of Indonesia. Ahok enjoyed some popularity as an important member of the country’s ruling party, but he was also Christian. Protests in 2016 broke out among groups asserting that the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim country should not be governed by a non-Muslim. Ahok, alas, has not had a good year. Not only did he lose the election, but he has since been imprisoned for blasphemy because of comments he made about the Qur’an. His case is absolutely worth reading about in greater detail, since it reflects many of the religious tensions that have been manifesting themselves in Indonesian society.

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