from those who would convert it into the austere Saudi version
By Manoj Joshi
THE BIG story in
Hardline Islamist groups in
Some of the “martyr” complex came from NGOs which oppose the death penalty. Given this atmosphere, the government handled the executions with great care, announcing the event after the deed had been done. They went through with it when it became clear that hardline groups had actually been emboldened by the prolonged public campaign in favour of the convicts by extremist elements.
The leader of orthodox NU Masdar F Masudi, an Islamic jurisprudence expert, declared that the execution of the convicts could be seen as the implementation of the Koranic doctrine of qisas, where a soul must be paid for by a soul. Din Shyamsuddin, the head of Muhammadiyah, was categorical that Muslims need to reject violence and terrorism.
I was unable to meet Mr. Shyamsuddin, whom I had met earlier in 2002, because he was traveling. The Muhammadiyah is the world’s second largest Islamic organisation after the NU, with 29 million members. It is a reformist socio-religious movement that believes in ijtihad or individual interpretation of the Koran and the Sunnah, rather than what is laid down by the ulema.
THOUGH the vast Indonesian archipelago is a neighbour of
December 22, 2008
Jan 10th 2008 |
From The Economist print edition
Behind many recent incidents is a vigilante group, the Islam Defenders' Front (FPI), which in September assaulted bars, cafés and hotels in
In 2006 a poll found that one in ten Indonesians supported terrorist attacks like the 2002
This all sounds worrying. But
The formerly separatist region of Aceh was allowed, under a peace pact with the rebels, to introduce strict sharia. The move was popular at first, says Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, but there was widespread revulsion when the authorities started publicly whipping miscreants. As a result the religious police were drastically reined in. Overall, Indonesians seem to prefer the idea of living under “God's law” to the practice of it. Indonesian Islam has always been distinct from the Middle Eastern kind, infusing influences from Hinduism and other religions. This will make it hard for fundamentalists to get far, says Muhammad Hikam, a political consultant.
Whereas a relatively small number of fiery militants and fundamentalists get most attention, Mr Hikam says that liberal Islamic scholars have successfully broken the link between religious piety and political Islam. Indonesians seeking a more overt expression of their faith, as many do nowadays, can still believe in separation of mosque and state. As the 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections approach, secular parties have been attracting voters by creating Islamic—but not Islamist—wings. The in-phrase, says Mr Fealy, is Islam Lunak, “soft Islam”. Pollsters are telling politicians that it helps to add a mild religious tinge to speeches about social justice and anti-corruption. But radical stuff, like preaching an Islamic state, is a turn-off.
Several of the country's political parties began life as the political wings of religious movements such as NU and Muhammidiyah. But the parties and their parent bodies have drifted apart, even as all have mellowed. In recent elections a more religiously conservative group, Prosperous Justice (PKS), has gained votes—but polls now show its support slumping. One reason is that it backed the pornography law and has suffered in the backlash against it.
Another, admits Zulkieflimansyah, a senior PKS parliamentarian, is that it has joined the (secular) coalition of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Its popularity has suffered because of tough policies such as cutting fuel subsidies. Mr Zulkieflimansyah sees his party as undergoing a desirable process of moderation as it “encounters reality”. PKS—like longer-established Muslim parties before it—is now having to ditch the fire and brimstone to transcend minority appeal. Rising younger figures in the party, like him, are more comfortable with this than its older generation, who studied in the
Other, more important ways to make sure
Friday, 25 October, 2002, 02:11 GMT 03:11
By Mark Duff
BBC religious affairs reporter
The devastating nightclub bombing on the Indonesian holiday
It has also raised questions about the specific characteristics of Islam in the world's most populous Muslim country.
A quick glance at a map of
Radical Muslims do not command wide support
It is at the crossroads of the Pacific and Indian oceans. And it has been on trading routes for as long as mankind has sailed the seven seas.
Geography, history and trade - those three factors have combined over the centuries to create a brand of Islam that is unique to
It is a brand that acknowledges the great tradition of religious belief out of which Islam emerged. And it is one that is enshrined in the country's constitution.
Muslim traders from the Arabian cradle of Islam brought their faith to
Radicals are unhappy with a female president
The earliest Indonesians were animists. They practised ancestor and spirit worship. Then, for about 1,500 years after Christ, the Hindu and Buddhist faiths spread from the Indian sub-continent to the western part of
Some pockets of
But the Islam of Indonesia was also influenced by Sufi holy men - devout Muslim mystics renowned for the beauty of their music and poetry, and for internalising the focus of their spiritual odyssey rather than seeking to impose their faith on the external political realities around them.
That influence, too, was a force for moderation.
In time, Islam spread throughout the archipelago and up into the southern
Its final form in any place depended on the inherited tradition. Where Islam overlay Hinduism, or the ancient belief systems that pre-dated it, as in the west of the archipelago, it differed from the form that emerged further east, which had been untouched by Hinduism.
But the same geography that helped foster moderation and tolerance now has more sinister connotations. An archipelago of thousands of islands is ideal territory for guerrilla groups: hunting them is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
History and politics
Indonesian Islam came into its own politically with the battle against colonialism. In
Politically, too, though, Islam is part of a rich multi-cultural mix. The very symbol of
Vice-President Hamzah Haz leads the largest Muslim party
The national motto is "unity in diversity".
The founding principles of
Moderation is therefore built into the country's constitutional framework.
This is not to overlook the impact of decades of repression during which the armed forces clamped down on Islamic militancy. The authoritarian rule of the military provided the stability on which economic growth took place. It provided security and relative peace.
But it also entailed severe restrictions on personal freedom of expression.
The advent of democracy, coupled with the impact of the South-East Asian economic collapse in 1997, and the arrival of a tough new breed of Middle Eastern Islamic preachers, sowed the seeds of the current challenge to
Economic stress created an underclass of impoverished, alienated people. Democracy brought freedom of speech, and a new generation of Islamic politicians used their newfound freedom to tap into this rich seam of anger and resentment.
More radical, purist Islamic preachers started to arrive too, from the
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is walking a tightrope in the aftermath of the
The scale of that challenge became clear when the country's two biggest moderate Muslim groups criticised the detention in
JI has an avowedly radical Islamist agenda - one which includes a vision of an Islamic theocracy across much of
Since 11 September
The leaders of two groups - Laskar Jihad and the Islamic Defenders Front - have been detained and are facing trial. There have been small-scale protests by their supporters, but nothing - yet - to suggest there will be a popular backlash.
The Indonesian authorities say Mr Ba'asyir is a suspect in a series of bombings in December 2000, and alleged plots, including an assassination attempt on Megawati before she became president.
He is not being detained in connection with the
But many Indonesians are sceptical. And while the vast majority of Indonesians are undoubtedly hostile to the radical agenda of some Islamists, analysts are warning that too harsh a crackdown could threaten those very values of free speech and tolerance that underpin Indonesian democracy.
And there is a more immediate political danger for Megawati - the risk that a crackdown could result in the break-up of her fragile coalition government, some members of which are sympathetic to the Islamic fundamentalist cause.
Islam was the dominant religion by far in
According to orthodox practice, Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion in which God (Allah or Tuhan) is a pervasive, if somewhat distant, figure. The Prophet Muhammad is not deified, but is regarded as a human who was selected by God to spread the word to others through the Quran, Islam's holiest book, the revealed word of God. Islam is a religion based on high moral principles, and an important part of being a Muslim is commitment to these principles. Islamic law (sharia; in Indonesian, syariah) is based on the Quran; the sunna, Islamic tradition, which includes the hadith (hadis in Indonesian), the actions and sayings of Muhammad; ijma, the consensus of a local group of Islamic jurisprudents and, sometimes, the whole Muslim community; and qiyas or reasoning through analogy. Islam is universalist, and, in theory, there are no national, racial, or ethnic criteria for conversion. The major branches of Islam are those adhered to by the Sunni and Shia Muslims.
To a significant degree, the striking variations in the practice and interpretation of Islam--in a much less austere form than that practiced in the Middle East--in various parts of
These historical processes gave rise to enduring tensions between orthodox Muslims and more syncretistic, locally based religion--tensions that were still visible in the early 1990s. On Java, for instance, this tension was expressed in a contrast between santri and abangan, an indigenous blend of native and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs with Islamic practices sometimes also called Javanism, kejawen, agama Jawa, or kebatinan. The terms and precise nature of this opposition were still in dispute in the early 1990s, but on Java santri not only referred to a person who was consciously and exclusively Muslim, santri also described persons who had removed themselves from the secular world to concentrate on devotional activities in Islamic schools called pesantren--literally the place of the santri.
In contrast to the Mecca-oriented philosophy of most santri, there was the current of kebatinan, which is an amalgam of animism, Hindu-Buddhist, and Islamic--especially Sufi--beliefs. This loosely organized current of thought and practice, was legitimized in the 1945 constitution and, in 1973, when it was recognized as one of the agama, President Suharto counted himself as one of its adherents. Kebatinan is generally characterized as mystical, and some varieties were concerned with spiritual self-control. Although there were many varieties circulating in 1992, kebatinan often implies pantheistic worship because it encourages sacrifices and devotions to local and ancestral spirits. These spirits are believed to inhabit natural objects, human beings, artifacts, and grave sites of important wali (Muslim saints). Illness and other misfortunes are traced to such spirits, and if sacrifices or pilgrimages fail to placate angry deities, the advice of a dukun or healer is sought. Kebatinan, while it connotes a turning away from the militant universalism of orthodox Islam, moves toward a more internalized universalism. In this way, kebatinan moves toward eliminating the distinction between the universal and the local, the communal and the individual.
Another important tension dividing Indonesian Muslims was the conflict between traditionalism and modernism. The nature of these differences was complex, confusing, and a matter of considerable debate in the early 1990s, but traditionalists generally rejected the modernists' interest in absorbing educational and organizational principles from the West. Specifically, traditionalists were suspicious of modernists' support of the urban madrasa, a reformist school that included the teaching of secular topics. The modernists' goal of taking Islam out of the pesantren and carrying it to the people was opposed by the traditionalists because it threatened to undermine the authority of the kyai (religious leaders). Traditionalists also sought, unsuccessfully, to add a clause to the first tenet of the Pancasila state ideology requiring that, in effect, all Muslims adhere to the sharia. On the other hand, modernists accused traditionalists of escapist unrealism in the face of change; some even hinted that santri harbored greater loyalty towards the ummah (congregation of believers) of Islam than to the secular Indonesian state.
Despite these differences, the traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama (literally, Revival of the Religious Scholars, also known as the Muslim Scholars' League), the progressive Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims (Masyumi), and two other parties were forcibly streamlined into a single Islamic political party in 1973--the Unity Development Party (PPP). Such cleavages may have weakened Islam as an organized political entity, as demonstrated by the withdrawal of the Nahdlatul Ulama from active political competition, but as a popular religious force Islam showed signs of good health and a capacity to frame national debates in the 1990s.