, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 05/15/2002 7:13 AM | Opinion
Wisnu Pramudya, Editor, 'Suara Hidayatullah' Magazine, Jakarta
One telling incident occurred during an international scientific conference attended by both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars in Bandung in 1994. In his address, then minister of research and technology B.J. Habibie remarked: ""As a secular state, Indonesia does not place the Koran as its main source of legislation"".
However, immediately upon receiving a scribbled note from Nurcholish Madjid, Habibie retracted his statement: ""Oh, excuse me, what I meant was that as a pluralist state based on Pancasila ... No, Indonesia is not a secular state"".
More than anything, the incident served to illustrate the state of confusion affecting Indonesia's identity.
Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, it is based on Pancasila rather than Islam, and the current campaigns for the re-installment of the Piagam Jakarta (Jakarta Charter), which will enable the implementation of syariah (Islamic law) for Muslims, has been facing stiff opposition.
So, is this country Islamic or secular? What is apparent from the present discourse on the campaigns for syariah is a narrowing down of the syariah concept.
Islamic law is not the Jakarta Charter.
The first is universal, while the second is local (in this case, Indonesia) and sectorial (in this case, political).
It took the Committee for the Preparation of the Independence of Indonesia months to prepare the Jakarta Charter as an official document to be read as a proclamation of independence.
Two crucial parts of the document went missing when Soekarno and Hatta, after they had been kidnapped several days earlier, read out a makeshift text on Aug. 17, 1945.
The first part was a sentence declaring independence with the blessing of Allah the Almighty.
The second missing part was seven words in the first of what later became the five-tenet Pancasila state ideology, namely: (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa) dengan kewajiban melaksanakan syariat Islam bagi pemeluknya (literally translated as the obligation for Muslims to observe syariah).
Some say the seven words were omitted at the behest of Mohammad Hatta, a Dutch-educated socialist democratic figure, reportedly under pressure by a Japanese officer and representatives from eastern Indonesia, who threatened to secede if the formula remained.
Hatta died years later without revealing who the Japanese officer or who the eastern Indonesian representatives were.
Hence the confusion over Indonesia's identity.
Indonesians do not have the courage to build a legal system on what are actually their own roots.
The French built their legal system upon their belief in liberte, egalite et fraternite, so why don't Indonesians dare to build a legal system upon Islam, which is the social and cultural roots of its majority?
The current Criminal Code and other legislations are Dutch colonial inheritance. One can thus imagine the psycho-social confusion, resulting in what can only be called a split personality.
Those who oppose the campaigns argue that because Indonesia is plural, it would be unfair to base most of its laws on Islam.
But was not France plural on July 14, 1789? The battle between the feudalist and people's movement continued until well after the French Revolution had already been won.
Was not England plural when its legislature began to assume power equal to that wielded by the monarchy? A witness to such plurality was King Charles I who was beheaded in 1649 for treason by a country that was changing into a democracy.
England was at the time experiencing a crisis because of its very plurality. The tensions between the monarchy, the legislature, the Catholics and the Protestants, English and non-English were signs of that crisis. Yet the situation did not prevent growing democratization.
What can be learned from the history of England and France is that pluralism is never a hindrance to upholding the truth. Because the truth is not the result of consensus.
The French revolutionary and the English democrats believed that democracy was the truth.
Indonesia has failed to understand that the position of Islam, as the dominant source of social and cultural roots, has to be solidified before it can go on and solve other problems.
The English and the French, by contrast, have succeeded because they realized that a secular democracy, which places the Church in the margins of power, was the exclusive precondition for their people to lay the foundation of their countries.
The Jakarta Charter is a political matter. The annual People's Consultative Assembly sessions last year and this coming August was and will be the witnesses to a political campaign for the re-installment of the document.
But because it is only a political matter, neither failure nor victory should be deemed a life or death question.
Supporters of the document do not have to feel sorry if their campaign is defeated. There are many other roads leading to Rome (in this case, syariah).
Those who are against the Jakarta Charter do not need to panic if campaigners prevail and the document is included in the Constitution.
The present discourse on the Jakarta Charter, however, has witnessed a narrowing down of the syariah concept. People have been led to believe that syariah is equal to the Jakarta Charter.
What emerged from various discussions are myths surrounding syariah.
Three of the most quoted myths are: That Islam is no longer relevant; syariah will threaten human rights; and that it will cause Indonesia to disintegrate.
The first myth belies the fact that the West's knowledge and technological advancement today was founded from what had been developed by Muslim scholars centuries earlier.
History shows that syariah is parallel with the advancement of civilization. The slide only began when syariah was abandoned.
The second myth, that the implementation of syariah will threaten human rights, might have been prompted by fears of authoritarianism in the name of God.
History tells us that syariah cannot be upheld if individuals and the community are not empowered before the state. For example,syariah was implemented formally in Medina only after 13 years of efforts to empower individuals in Mecca.
There are certainly oppressive Muslim regimes, but a closer look reveals two telling components. The first was that those regimes implement only items in syariah that preserve their power, the second was that the regimes, more often than not, were those that came to power by the grace of their former Western occupiers.
The last myth that syariah threatens national integrity is speculation. There is no historical proof of a country being torn apart due to the implementation of syariah.
Indeed, Indonesia is facing the threat of disintegration but it is disintegration by design.
The scapegoats could be numerous but because most Indonesians are ambivalent Muslims, campaigners for syariah fit the bill of scapegoat nicely.
In an Islamic point of view,syariah touches practically all aspects of a Muslim's life.
For every Muslim, the syariah has to do with, for want of a better expression, comfort during one's lifetime and after death.
It is therefore clear why campaigns for the syariah will never cease.