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Remembering Nurcholish Madjid
Madjid (center) visited UCLA in 2001 and was hosted by Anthony Reid (left) and his mentor, Leonard Binder. (Photo by Jonathan Friedlander.)

Remembering Nurcholish Madjid

Muslim scholar was an influential player in Indonesia's democratic development

By Angilee Shah
Staff Writer

Nurcholish Madjid is most well known for his liberal Islamic beliefs and his influential role in President Suharto's 1998 resignation. He is known as a brilliant scholar and was often referred to as Cak Nur and the "conscience of his nation."

Madjid was 66 when he died of liver and kidney failure in Jakarta on Aug. 29. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Leonard Binder, director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and professor of political science, hopes Madjid will be remembered for, "his generosity of spirit, his gentle manner, his placid humility, and his remarkable good humor." Madjid, who received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1984, was first sent to the United States by the Indonesian government to participate in a research project called "Islam and Social Change." Binder was one of his mentors.

"Few human beings have ever attained such a state of comfort with the human condition. His was an extraordinary example of Islamic faith and practice," says Binder.

In 2001, Madjid came to UCLA as Distinguished Visitor of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He spoke at a two-day conference called "Indonesia: The Common Ground." In his lecture, he addressed the future of Indonesia; he said that the country is experimenting with democracy and that "we should not mistake popular noise for national trouble. In some respect, the popular noise is the function of a strong desire to participate in political and social processes."

Among Madjid's many works and translations about world religions is Doors to God, a popular book that emphasizes the many individual paths to faith.

Center for Southeast Asian Studies