This chapter explains the main concept of the book, religious improvisation, or how the practice of Islam involves trial and error and is contingent upon context. The possibility for religious improvisation has been enhanced in Indonesia’s transition from authoritarianism and democracy, which is why both conservative Islamists and liberal Muslims—the main actors shaping Indonesian democracy—are participating in it. Religious improvisation produces part-Islamic, part-Western assemblages. Such hybrid practices may indeed seem strange and surprising, and they importantly challenge dominant assumptions that Islam is external to Western secular liberalism.
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