, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 08/21/2007 7:21 AM | Opinion
Muhammad Nafik, Jakarta
Friday was the 62nd anniversary of Indonesian independence. We celebrated it as usual, with flag-raising ceremonies, speeches and games as well as other community festivities nationwide.
The celebrations reminded us of how this plural Indonesia was built into the prosperous nation that spans Sabang in Aceh on Sumatra island to Merauke in Papua province, the most eastern part of the country.
""Unity in diversity"" is the key to the soul of this huge nation's survival amid separatist challenges from community groups in several regions disadvantaged by the country's socio-economic development.
A serious threat to national integration is also emerging now from Islamist groups that have been campaigning for the enforcement of sharia in the world's third-largest democracy, after India and the United States.
Yet, many of us, the government in particular, seem to be ignorant that increasing fundamentalism and sectarianism could pose a real danger to national integration and development.
This year's independence anniversary was a timely moment to renew and strengthen the nation's commitment to the unity-in-diversity principle and pluralism mandated in the state ideology Pancasila and the Constitution.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono alluded to this issue in his state-of-the-nation address Thursday, saying the four basic pillars of the state -- Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the Unitary State of Indonesia and pluralism -- are non-negotiable and final.
But the statement lacked clarity and weight since the President failed to unveil specific measures to deal with Islamist movements that offer sectarian ideologies to replace Pancasila and reject democracy.
It would have been laudable if the President had used the annual address to heed the repeated calls from the Muslim moderates for the central government to revoke the sharia ordinances being enforced in some regencies and provinces across the nation.
In this case Yudhoyono, who is likely to run for reelection in 1999, appeared hesitant to get tough on sectarian groups, fearing he would lose support from Muslim voters.
The fundamentalism issue is more relevant for a serious discussion today as trans-national Islamist groups, including Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, are increasingly propagating national disintegration through their campaigns for sharia and an Islamic state.
Five days prior to Independence Day, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia convened in Jakarta for a conference on Aug. 12 to call for a caliphate, khilafah in Arabic, or an Islamic state to govern the world.
The hardline group, banned in several Middle Eastern countries, aims to unite all Muslim countries in a caliphate, ruled by Islamic law and led by an elected head of state or caliph.
It says the caliphate, which was applied during the early years of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad, should be revived because it is the only system that enables Muslims to enforce sharia comprehensively.
Failure or refusal to establish a caliphate is a ""big sin"" for Muslims, the group claims.
At the conference Hizbut Tahrir spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto blasted secularism as ""the mother of all destruction"" on earth, and called for an end to it by establishing a caliphate based on the prophetic tradition.
The International Caliphate Conference got significant attraction worldwide as it received wide coverage from the foreign media.
Since the massive rally held at the national Bung Karno sports stadium attracted some 80,000 Hizbut Tahrir supporters, it created an image that suggested Indonesian moderate Islam was now shifting to fundamentalism.
The claim gained justification with the presence at the forum of prominent Muslim scholar Din Syamsuddin, who leads the country's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, and the once popular preacher Abdullah ""Aa Gym"" Gymnastiar.
What is called a caliphate is merely a historical romanticism by Hizbut Tahrir because it is not be viable in the changing and modern Muslim world.
There are no authentic references in the Koran and the Sunnah or throughout Islamic history for Muslims to establish an Islamic state and enforce sharia as understood by some Muslims here today.
The term of khalifah is only mentioned in Verse 30 of Sura Baqara, concerning the creation of humans on earth.
Interpreting this verse, most classical Muslim scholars said the mandate of khalifah on earth is not to establish a caliphate but to ensure a prosperous life in the world (in any democratic political system).
The caliphate, according to famous Muslim historian Ibnu Khaldun, as quoted by noted Indonesian scholar Azyumardi Azra, ended with the deaths of the four al-Khulafa al-Rasyidun -- Abu Bakar, Umar bin Khattab, Utsman bin Affan and 'Ali bin Abi Thalib.
And the Islamic political entities -- the dynasties of Umaiyah, Abbasiyah and Utsmaniyah -- which existed after the al-Khulafa al-Rasyidun period, were not caliphs, but Islamic kingdoms or sultanates, Azyumardi further said in an opinion piece published Saturday in a national newspaper.
In this way, Hizbut Tahrir's campaign for the revival of a caliphate to reign over the world is reasonably questionable and misleading since the idea has lost its historical context and textual references in Islam.
But the Aug. 8 conference at the Bung Karno stadium should remain a grim concern for all of us because the event will give further weight to the movement for the enforcement of sharia in Indonesia by the Hizbut Tahrir, the Indonesian Mujahidin Council of former terror convict Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and other Islamist groups including the Prosperous Justice Party.
Any claim that the state can enforce sharia should be completely rejected because the idea undermines democracy and endangers pluralism, thus triggering disintegration.
What the government should do is to join hands with the moderate Muslim groups to perpetually counter the campaign with concrete action to oppose such an anti-pluralist idea.
Public debate is to be promoted consistently among all levels of Muslim communities, focusing on the idea that Islam should stay away from the state and that sharia is an individual obligation, not a state one.
The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.