As Indonesia's leading Muslim politician in the second half of the 20th century, Mohammad Natsir (1908-1993) went from heading the country's first post-independence government and largest Islamic political party to spending years in rebellion and in jail under the Soekarno regime. After initially welcoming Soekarno's overthrow in 1965, he became one of the most outspoken critics of the successor Suharto government's increasingly autocratic rule. Natsir's copious writings stretch from his student days in the late colonial period, when his debates with Soekarno over the character of Indonesian nationalism first attracted public attention, to the years immediately preceding his death when his trenchant criticisms brought him the enmity of the Suharto regime. They reveal a man struggling to harmonise his deep Islamic faith with his equally firm belief in national independence and democracy.
An editor and historian, Audrey R. KAHIN was managing editor of Southeast Asia publications and editor of the journal Indonesia at Cornell University from 1978-1995. She is currently a member of the journa;s editorial advisory board.