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Islam and Politics ( 12 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indonesia’s Muslims Don’t Need an Islamic State

By Pramono U. Tanthowi

September 11 2015

Among the many resolutions of the recent 47th Muhammadiyah congress in Makassar, of particular importance was the reassertion of its commitment to the national ideology, as the organization inaugurated the Pancasila state as Dar Al ‘Ahd (nation of consensus) and Dar al-Shahadah (land of dedication).

Though not mentioned in the resolution, many understand the significance of declaring Muhammadiyah’s stance, that this position is in contrast to that of extremist movements who designate Indonesia as Dar el Harb — a land of war where violent jihad is obligatory and in which civilian casualties, whether Muslim or not, are an unfortunate but inevitable consequence.

Most participants agreed and urged leaders to further specify the details of this commitment and how to disseminate it among schools and grassroots communities.

The resolution states the stance is a “reassertion” of Muhammadiyah’s commitment, as the organization has made similar declarations in several critical moments since its birth in 1912. First, during the bitter dispute among our founding fathers over the basis of the newly independent Indonesia, ahead of its proclamation on Aug. 17, 1945.

Second, in the early 1980s when the Soeharto regime required all organizations to adopt Pancasila into their statutes. Third, in the early 2000s when several Islamic political parties proposed the adoption of Sharia into the Constitution during constitutional amendments.

Muhammadiyah has been taking the stand that the unitary state based on Pancasila is the final, enshrined form of the state. It is simply because Pancasila was a result of consensus among our founding fathers, including Muhammadiyah figures, such as Ki Bagus Hadikusumo, Kasman Singodimedjo and Kahar Muzakkir

Muhammadiyah has concluded that Indonesia is neither suitable for an Islamic state, nor for a secular state. The 1945 Constitution rejects the superiority of any religion over the other. Muhammadiyah affirms that only Pancasila can appeal to the various ethnic, regional and religious groups that comprise the nation.

The organization contends that Islam, insofar as it enters politics, is a divisive element. This is demonstrated by the frequent bitter tensions in Indonesian history resulting from ideological rivalries among different political groups and interests.

We are fully aware that the pluralistic nature of Indonesian society is not only a gift, but a curse also — because each variant represents very different segments of the population, from theological, socio-economic and political perspectives. Potential dangers behind these differences will worsen when they are involved either in political conflict or in ideological rivalry.

Unfortunately, such conflicts and rivalry have often paralyzed the political Islam movement, notably in the 1950s, the 1970s and 1980s. The question is now whether it is necessary for Indonesian Muslims to blatantly repeat such political demise by affirming Islam as the state ideology.

Muhammadiyah also states, however, that Indonesia is not suitable for a secular state in the conventional sense of relegating religion to the private sphere, and enforcing strict separation between religion and state. This refusal stems from the awareness of the Muslim majority, that they should not limit themselves to the nonpolitical realm. Such an objection also stems from adherence to the doctrinal principle, that there is no clear separation between religion and politics in Islam, as it governs all aspects of life.

It is the view of Muhammadiyah that, as the majority population, Indonesian Muslims should fill strategic posts not only in elective offices and government positions, but also in policy making.

That is what democracy precisely does. Therefore, what else do Indonesian Muslims want other than to significantly influence Indonesian politics and society? Do they need to further transform Indonesia into a theocratic state?

Muhammadiyah is also fully aware that Pancasila has been frequently manipulated by different regimes. First president Sukarno took pains to submerge those ideological differences in the single jargon of Nasakom (nationalist, religious [Islamic] and communist). Unfortunately, the new independent Indonesia could not be simultaneously Marxist, Islamic and developmentalist, except in the mind of Sukarno.

Then Soeharto sought to construct a comprehensive ideological justification for authoritarian rule. His regime abused Pancasila to stress social harmony. According to the “family principle” (Asas Kekeluargaan), individuals and groups should subordinate their interests to those of society as a whole. Since there was no place for conflicting interests either within society or between society and the state, political opposition was declared illegal.

These manipulations have precisely shown that Pancasila is an open ideology — interpreted differently by different groups for their own political causes. Indeed, there is no single interpretation of Pancasila. At certain times under the banner of democracy, the Pancasila doctrine has been ironically marshaled to oppose pluralism, tolerance and democracy.

Given its openness Pancasila provides an opportunity for Muslims to comprehend the ideology in Islamic ways. Muhammadiyah sees much compatibility between the Pancasila doctrine and Islamic values, such as deliberation (Musyawarah), moderation (Tawasuth) and justice (‘Adalah).

Despite being a human creation, Pancasila is not necessarily antithetical to the Koran’s divine values.

This is not a new interpretation at all. However, the challenges and problems of recent years, particularly the spread of transnational extremist ideologies, make Pancasila more relevant.

Muhammadiyah furthers its nationalistic commitment by declaring the Pancasila state as the land of dedication (Dar Al-Syahadah) for all different groups. This country provides a wide opportunity for all citizens to vie with one another in doing good works (Fastabiq ul Khayrat), a valued deed in Islam.

As the majority population, it is fair to say that Indonesian Muslims bear most responsibility for this country, such as in regard to challenges like poverty and corruption. The future of this nation, for better or worse is mostly up to the Muslim society.

Indonesia has not yet arrived at its goals, as mentioned in the preamble to the 1945 Constitution. Systemic corruption has hindered development; democratic transition has also been clogged up; while tolerance has been blurred by extremist movements, to name just a few challenges.

Amid all the misery and disillusionment of the post-Soeharto years, as Indonesian citizens let us demonstrate good sense and grace, even when political leaders have been showing neither.

Pramono U. Tanthowi is secretary of Muhammadiyah’s research and development council (2010-2015)