Post Colonial Afghanistan and Indonesia’s Relationships to Imperialism

There is a large difference between the functionality and politics of West Asian and East Asian countries, such as Afghanistan and Indonesia. In this paper, I will examine as to why Afghanistan has had a history of turmoil and politico-religious fundamentalism, and how Indonesia is regarded as one of the most progressively democratic nations in the modern Muslim world.


Afghanistan has large, sprawling rural areas with uneven areas of population, and is often recognized as an unstable nation.(1) The notoriously unstable western/central Asian Muslim nations such as Afghanistan are largely due to the presence of fundamentalist extremist governments. These governments have been established due to the nation being a battleground for the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to carry out the Cold War. The U.S.S.R occupied Afghanistan in the 80’s until the US invaded to further undermine Soviet power, which eventually disenfranchised Afghanis from any sort of political agency. Many scholars attribute the rise of the Afghan Taliban to U.S. intervention of Soviet invasion. (1) The Taliban left Afghanistan in shambles; no popular political agency, massive amounts of poverty, and violent destruction. This is also largely due to the lack of economic infrastructure, which grants space to the development of exploitative black markets and unregulated crime. This economic destruction leads to further political instability, which is still present in Afghanistan today(3).Khalid expands on this with a fantastic quote:

“Afghanistan became a vast stateless expanse, its territory divided up among warlords who recognized no law except their own, its economy taken over by drugs, and its infrastructure destroyed beyond recognition. The country had become a haven for terrorism- all as a by-product of an American proxy war… This situation was to radicalize and militarize Islamic movements across a vast swath of territory… the chaos in Afghanistan, combined with Saudi and Pakistani machinations, was to produce the Taliban later in the decade…”(4)

Because of American-inflicted violence, many fundamentalist political rulers became radically opposed to the U.S. and Western powers. While Islam is sometimes used as a false justification for radical terrorist movements, it is important not to equate the too, and also to acknowledge the history of backlash against US colonialism outside of the Middle East. However it is essential to understand that not all Afghans support radical fundamentalism, but rather were forced to be complicit with these violent and harmful governments who claimed to support their liberation from Western invasion and exploitation through Islam, which was a reclamation of pre-Soviet, pre-U.S. authenticity. There is still a chance for an established stable political future for Afghanistan and surrounding countries, which can utilize Islam and value national pride in a way that can support its citizens in the ways they may need.

In contrast to Afghanistan in West Asia, Indonesia in East Asia is governed by a mostly secular political institution. It acts a s secular due to the country’s large, diverse population. Indonesia’s population speaks about seven hundred languages and six religions, and is holds the largest Muslim community in the world, which make sup 87% of the country’s population. (5) Despite this vast majority, Indonesia is not an acting theocracy. Centering the country around intellectualism allows for the core values of Islam and Islamic practice to remain intact as well as remain inclusive to all Indonesian peoples. The focus on intellectualism has also helped the nation to develop an effective, intricate legal system, which has produced political stability.

Indonesia’s stability is also contributed to the smooth transition from Dutch colonialism to independence. There was space for many political ideas to blossom, as well as a culture of tolerance and inclusivity so there was no space for violent fundamentalism to obtain political power.

The largest force that have impacted both Indonesia and Afghanistan have been imperialism. I understand that Afghanistan is still facing the devastating effects of U.S. intervention, while scholarship and political discourse is freeing in Indonesia due to its lack of exposure to post-colonial Western violence. It is essential for unstable countries such as Afghanistan to invest in political diversity, as well as a secular compromising democratic government.


1) Mahallati Class Lecture, November 5, 2017.

2) Ibid

3) ibid

4) deeb Khalid. Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Pg. 144

5)  Cole, Juan Ricardo. Engaging the Muslim World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.