The State Institutes of Islamic Studies (IAIN) have emerged at centre stage in Indonesia, now the fourth largest democracy in the world and the country with the largest Muslim population. An Impact Study, completed in March 2000, documents how the IAINs have played a major role in the development of Indonesian Islam. The IAINs emphasize "critical thought and objective enquiry; understanding ofÉother religions; a participatory, democratic and inclusive approach to development; and respect for the humanistic, tolerant, egalitarian and open traditions of classical Islam". The IAIN approach is spread by IAIN staff and alumni at the village and national level through the extensive network of educational institutions, NGOs, national and local Islamic organizations.

The Indonesian government's decision to transform the IAINs into universities reflects Indonesia's goal to become a modern, peaceful, democratic nation. This national transformation involves an educational process that will support Indonesians in dealing with modernization while retaining their identity and their roots in the traditions that give meaning and continuity to their lives and provide moral and ethical values to guide the nation through this process of change.

Support for both continuity and change is needed for equity and social stability. This is at the heart of the IAIN Indonesia Social Equity Project, an educational project in the broadest sense, designed to find the resources within tradition and society that will enable Muslims in rural areas and the urban fringes, a critical segment of society, to open to modernity. The IAINs, which provide leadership for Islamic education, will broaden their mandate to include science and technology while maintaining their religious character; communities will explore new concepts and deal with issues of development within the context of their traditional beliefs; and people from throughout society will learn from each other through approaches that are participatory and inclusive, approaches that expand individual and institutional thinking.

The IAIN/Indonesia Social Equity Project is a priority of the Indonesian government. Despite a difficult economic situation, the Planning Ministry (BAPPENAS) has demonstrated its support for the Project by its recent renewal of a commitment to provide 40% of the Project funding. The total Project budget is approximately $Cdn 17 million.

This is a new project but the partnership between MORA, the IAINs and McGill's Institute of Islamic Studies (MIIS) is an old one, representing 50 years of co-operation between Indonesia and Canada. Indonesian Muslims who have studied at MIIS have a strong academic background in Islamic history and law. This knowledge has been instrumental in supporting change from within Indonesian society. For example, religious teachings are being used to explore gender issues. In the Qur'an, men and women are equal before God. Muslims refer to this to advocate equal responsibility for the upbringing of children and the division of housework. Arguments from within the Islamic tradition are also being presented by men and women to support the use of contraception as well as women's right to delay marriage or to divorce an abusive husband.

The common academic concerns, the relationships and the shared history between MORA, the IAINs and McGill make it possible for Canadians and Indonesians to work together on this seminal Project that is at the heart of Indonesian development. The Project management partnership that has been established and the systems that are in place also mean that the Project can be carried out efficiently and cost-effectively.

The 5-year Project supports CIDA's Indonesia program priority of governance and support for participatory development. The Project purpose is to lay the foundations for the transformation of the IAINs into universities. The outcomes of the Project will include:

  • Enhanced IAIN role in community outreach and alternative education programs
    Programs in the IAINs' Faculties of Community Education will produce professional community development workers and establish partnerships with national organizations and NGOs for community development.
  • Enhanced IAIN role in strengthening education system in madrasahs
    Programs in the IAINs' Faculties of Education and Library and Information Studies programs will provide teachers and librarians for the madrasahs and form links with community-based schools.
  • The strengthening of IAINs Jakarta and Yogyakarta to play a leadership role in integrating religion and development
    IAIN staff and students will develop models to support the cultural transformation of the Muslim community through formal and non-formal education, integrating religion and development
  • The enhanced participation of women in decision-making at IAINs
    Women will play a critical role in narrowing of the gender gap within the IAIN and in promoting modern interpretations of gender in Islam inside and outside the IAIN.