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The Wikipedia article says that --

Garuda, the disciples carrier or vehicle (vahana) of the Hindu god Vishnu, appears in many ancient Hindu-Buddhist temples of ancient Indonesia. Temples such as Mendut, Borobudur, Sajiwan, Prambanan, Kidal, Penataran, Belahan, and Sukuh depict the images (bas-relief or statue) of Garuda...

Why does Indonesia have a Hindu national emblem when the country is 86% Muslim? Why was there no protest if a handful of gentlemen selected Garuda?

For comparison, say, in Bangladesh, which has a similar percentage of Muslims, I think it is unthinkable to select a Hindu symbol as a national emblem.

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    Why does India have a Buddhist symbol as its national emblem (the Lion Capital of Ashoka, commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha and created by a Buddhist convert) when only 0.7% of the country is Buddhist? History can be a powerful national symbol beyond religious affiliation.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:49
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    For that matter, the national emblem of Bangladesh actually explicitly has a star that represents state secularism, despite the country being mostly Muslim.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:54
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    And then he erected the Lion Capital to commemorate the birth of Gautama Buddha. It is hard not to see that as a Buddhist symbol.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:58
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    Yes, but Bangladesh still kept a symbol of secularism in its emblem despite changing its constitution to be explicitly Islamic. Why is it surprising that Indonesia might keep a symbol of Hinduism despite being majority Muslim? I could cite a dozen-odd other countries in the world that have symbols associated with religions or beliefs not practiced by the majority in their emblems.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 28, 2022 at 21:00
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    See also Britannia a symbol of Britain, a Roman goddess/personification re-popularised since the 16th century. Britons don't need to believe in the Roman State Religion to use symbols like Britannia.... So the answer the question is "Garuda, the disciples carrier or vehicle (vahana) of the Hindu god Vishnu, appears in many ancient Hindu-Buddhist temples of ancient Indonesia." But perhaps you could get a better answer on Islam about whether this halal or not.
    – James K
    Oct 29, 2022 at 14:01

3 Answers 3

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The answer (to the extent that there is a particular answer) is provided in the linked Wikipedia article. Sultan Hamid's original design featured an anthropomorphic Garuda, as can be found in the artwork of Indonesia's Hindu temples. The Islamic party, Masyumi, was opposed to this for the reason that you describe: it was too closely related to Hindu mythology. Hamid therefore altered the design to its current form i.e. a stylized eagle. Apparently the Muslims participating in the selection process were satisfied, and thus Indonesia acquired its national emblem.

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    So the right answer is that Wikipedia is wrong as the symbol is not really that of Garuda. :)
    – sfxedit
    Feb 1, 2023 at 20:56
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In the past, the Muslims in Indonesia practiced a much more relaxed, tolerant, and loose form of Islam, often mixed with animism and other forms of religion that "strict" adherents of Islam would find unacceptable. Even eating pork and drinking alcohol were not rare. The tudung/hijab were far less common than today.

That changed from the 1970s when the Saudis with their oil money began exporting their more puritanical, "pure/strict", Wahhabist interpretation of Islam to the rest of the world. (See e.g. this 2020 Guardian story: How Saudi Arabia's religious project transformed Indonesia.)

If today Indonesia tried to adopt Garuda as its national emblem for the first time, there would probably be a bit more of a fuss from the much stronger Islamist movements. But in 1950 this was not an issue.

(The same can be said for India's flag with Buddhist wheel adopted in 1947 when secularist elites ran the country vs today when the Hindutva movements are much stronger and the BJP runs the country.)

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  • Thanks for the Guardian link, a great article. :-) Sep 15, 2023 at 9:30
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Your question mixes up majority of population and freedom of religion in Indonesia.

Even if Indonesia has 86% Muslim, and Indonesia is the state with the highest muslimic poulation, it is NOT a muslimic state.

There is no established state religion, and therefore the Garuda eagle and other symbols of Indonesia that are used does not have to fulfil any muslimic/islamic rules like sharia etc.

Official there are six religions in Indonesia with same rights:

  • Islam,
  • Christianity (Catholicism "Katolik", and Protestantism, "Kristen" are recognised separately),
  • Hinduism,
  • Buddhism,
  • Confucianism

Even if Garuda may be a hinduistic symbol and the founders of the nation have agreed that this should be the heraldic animal, what does this has to do with 86% muslims if the country takes it freedom of religion serious? ;-)

Like Charle Evans answer is stating: "Apparently the Muslims participating in the selection process were satisfied, and thus Indonesia acquired its national emblem."

-> That's lived healthy cooperation between different religious groups.

For comparison, say, in Bangladesh, which has a similar percentage of Muslims, I think it is unthinkable to select a Hindu symbol as a national emblem.

It seems like Bangladesh is for you a "role model" of holding up the islam. In fact Bangladesh is one of the counties with the most violence against people of religious minorities like christians. (see link)

"Christian converts of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or ethnic origin suffer the most severe restrictions in Bangladesh,"

https://www.opendoors.de/christenverfolgung/weltverfolgungsindex/laenderprofile/bangladesch https://www.opendoors.de/christenverfolgung/weltverfolgungsindex/weltverfolgungsindex-karte#rangfolge

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  • Christianity is often seen as a short hand for western influence - I wouldn't expect the treatment of Hindu and Christian minorities to be comparable where anti-western sentiments are common. Sep 12, 2023 at 9:40
  • Out of scope, but it is the first time I read "muslimic" and first google page basically gives nothing. Don't you mean "islamic" ? Sep 12, 2023 at 11:53
  • en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Muslimic @Itération Maybe not very common, but correct wording.. Sep 12, 2023 at 12:04
  • What's the difference with islamic ? Sep 12, 2023 at 12:54
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslims Sep 12, 2023 at 13:44

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