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Abdul Rahman Baswedan and the Emancipation of the Hadramis in Indonesia

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The journalist and politician Abdul Rahman Baswedan has played a prominent role in the emancipation of the Indonesian Hadhramis and in the integration of the Hadhrami minority into the wider Indonesian society. During the early decades of the twentieth century, the comparatively small, and for outsiders relatively closed, community was in a constant state of dissension and confusion. It was divided by tensions that can be reduced to differences between the Hadhrami culture and the Indonesian cultures, and between loyalty to Hadhramaut, the region of their origin, and the country in which they were looking for a livelihood. It was only in the years leading up to World War II that the idea of being an Indonesian gained significance in these circles, not least of all thanks to Baswedan's efforts in this respect. This article examines Baswedan's childhood and school years in an Arab quarter, his journalistic training and political maturation, and his gradual realization that he belonged to a community that had no perception of its future identity. His "coming out" as an Indonesian; and his activities during the nationalist period, the Japanese occupation, and the years after independence in striving to break down the relative isolation of his Hadhrami compatriots will also be analyzed. Baswedan's life and career form a unique entry in the history of the problems that the Hadhrami community has experienced, both in the Dutch East Indies and in Indonesia.


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