, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 08/25/2007 1:33 PM | Opinion
Ahmad Amir Aziz, Mataram
The trend for the promotion of the caliphate appears to be a consistent agenda among certain Muslim groups. Thousands of delegates attended Hizbut Tahrir Britain 's national caliphate conference at Alexandra Palace in London on Aug. 4. The conference is part of a month of global activities to revive the caliphate system of government in the Muslim world.
On Aug. 12, Hizbut Tahir Indonesia also hosted a similar activity in Jakarta.
It is important to discuss the caliphate's nature. The caliphate (khilafa in Arabic) is a political system from the ideology of Islam. The legislative sources are the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Islam was established as a state in Madinah, beginning a new age in which the Muslims introduced Islam to humankind, opening new lands to Islam. Thereafter, the caliphate shielded the Ummah for centuries, unifying them as a single state and implementing Islam over them.
But in this modern world, the ideology seems too formalistic, if not conservative. Adopting this ideology will spark conflicts not only between Muslims and non-Muslims, but even among Muslims themselves.
Relevant to this context, Abdullah Ahmad An-Naim, a professor at the School of Law at Emory University in Atlanta, said the experiences of his country of origin, Sudan, in the past 20 years should teach other countries not to let the government get involved in sharia. He argued sharia was a private domain (Islam and Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia)
The groups who fight for the implementation of the caliphate are often described as ""soft jihadists"". They are waiting for the establishment of the caliphate before conducting jihad, while ""hard jihadists"" must conduct jihad long before the caliphate's establishment.
This ideology is not compatible with modern and moderate Islam. Indonesia has proved that Islam is compatible with democracy and is the world's third largest democracy after India and the United States. The caliphate is clearly anti-democratic.
Indonesia is a secular state -- although many of us do not like the term ""secular"". As a secular state, it strictly separates state authority from religious authority. This suggests Indonesia is a pluralistic nation-state that rejects the idea of state religion.
We are glad that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country that applies democracy and the principles of a secular state. It needs to remember, however, that once state declares itself secular, it must give every citizen the freedom to accept religion or not. In a more concrete way, secularism is the separation of state and religious affairs. It benefits both religion and the state.
Every religion will be under the protection of the state, which is neutral, rational, and susceptible to critiques, because it is not a part of a sacred institution. Every party in the secular state can be criticized, evaluated, reformed, and even substituted by parties that may be able to lead and prove that they are capable of doing things better.
The state institution becomes neutral, profane, has no divine mandate or sacred values, as are the claims of every religion. The state is liberated from dogmatism. Besides, religion will be free from political intrigue to gain power. So religion can play its role in morality.
I do believe that the majority of Indonesian Muslims prefer to implement their religion in open meaning under a modern, multicultural society without the label of a caliphate. We should not repeat our failure to engage and deal with sharia and conservative groups as we did in Aceh, as well as in other predominantly Muslim countries.
Many of us do not want to see Islam being exploited by conservative groups to promote something new, a different type of Islam that is against local traditions and the nature of Islam itself.
The writer is a lecturer at the State Institute for Islamic Studies in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.