Sunday, October 21, 2012

Special Report: Indonesia - Exchanging Pluralism For An Islamist State

June 9, 2006

Special Report: Indonesia - Exchanging Pluralism For An Islamist State

We have reported extensively on the situation in Indonesia since we started last August, and one message has been clear: Indonesia is marching inexorably into Islamic extremism. A full list of all our articles on Indonesia (more than 94) can be found by clicking HERE.
Last year, attacks upon Christians escalated, with defenseless Christian schoolgirls being beheaded, shot and attacked with machetes in Central Sulawesi, a resurgence of a sectarian conflict which had occurred between 2001 and 2002, in which 1,000 people died.
The Rise of Militant Groups
Thalib.jpgThe Sulawesi conflicts had been part of a wider war in adjacent islands of the archipelago, the Moluccan War. This had been initiated by Umar Jaffar Thalib (pictured), and his Islamist paramilitaries, the Lashkar Jihad, in 1999. By the time the war had ended in 2002, 9,000 people, mostly Christians, had been killed.
Thalib claimed to have met Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. He had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where he became radicalized. Upon his return to Indonesia in the 1990s, he set up networks of Islamic boarding schools, called pesantren. In 2001, Thalib had been arrested for setting up an unofficial Islamic court, where he had sentenced a rapist to be stoned to death.
During the Moluccan conflict, Muslims loyal to Lashkar Jihad forcibly "converted" 3,900 Christians to become Muslims against their will. The majority of these, including women and the elderly, were forcibly circumcised.
Thalib, who is of Yemeni descent, was tried in January 2003 for sowing religious hatred, but was acquitted. Lashkar Jihad was officially disbanded in 2003.
Some sources claim Lashkar Jihad was set up with the backing of several mainstream politicians. For nearly 30 years previously, the dictator Suharto had ruled Indonesia, until he was deposed in 1998. He had taken over from Sukarno in 1967, the first president, who had ruled Indonesia from its official beginnings in 1950. Suharto was corrupt, but when in power he had kept Islamist militancy under strict control.
When Suharto was deposed, the tide of militant Islam ebbed more strongly, leading to the formation of Lashkar Jihad in 1998 and also the Front Pembela Islam (FPI) or Islamic Defenders' Front.
Founded in August 1998 by Middle Eastern born and Saudi-educated Habib Rizieq Shihab (aka Muhammad Rizieq), FPI has violently attacked Christians, and was involved in February in violent anti-cartoon protests, including attacks against the US Embassy on February 19 this year (pictured, below right), even though the United States mainstream press never reproduced the controversial Mohammed cartoons.
Following the tsunami disaster of 24 December 2004, FPI members descended onto Banda Aceh, the most severely affected area, and began to threaten foreign aid workers, accusing them of wishing to "convert" local Muslims to Christianity. According to the Jamestown Foundation, 1,000 members of FPI were in the disaster-struck region by the end of January. They had promised to mobilize 5,000.
US Embassy attackThe FPI led an anti-American campaign in 2001,which involved threatening businesses. This was done as a reaction to the US involvement in Afghanistan. The group threatened to remove all US influence from Indonesia, but the threat was never realized.
FPI regularly smash up venues they deem to be un-Islamic, such as pool halls, massage parlours and bars. Though these activities are illegal, FPI have long enjoyed a virtual immunity from actions from the notoriously corrupt Indonesian police.
On February 25 we reported that the police began to respond to FPI's threats of violence. In Bandung, the group had been threatening foreigners staying at the Holiday Inn hotel. They were interrogating people about their views on the Danish cartoons, and telling those who did not object that they had to leave the country. The group was acting in conjunction with the leader of the Anti-Apostasy Movement, a group they work with when closing down churches. In all, 27 people were arrested.
Recently, the US magazine Playboy began to produce an Indonesian edition in Jakarta. The offices of the publishers in Jakarta were attacked by 300 members of the FPI on April 12, even though the edition had no nudes. The group smashed windows, and damaged the gate and door of the building. They clashed with police, and two police officers were injured, but as per usual, no members of FPI were arrested. The magazine's editorial staff had to move to a secret location.
RiziekThe Yemeni leader of FPI, Habib Rizieq Shihab (aka Muhammad Rizieq) was once punished by the state. The Middle-East-born and Saudi-educated scholar was taken to court in 2003, charged with inciting followers to make raids on foreign establishments. He served his seven month jail term at Salemba Penitentiary in Central Jakarta, being released on November 19, 2003. Now, FPI is active in 22 of Indonesia's provinces. It is said to gain much of its income from extortion.
What is perhaps pertinent to note here is the extent of foreign influences which are present within both FPI and Lashkar Jihad. Umar Jaffar Thalib of the latter group is of Yemeni descent, and many of the top leaders of FPI are also Arabic. Whereas Indonesia's strain of Islam under Sukarno and Suharto was renowned for its "moderate" nature, and its tolerance of other groups, the brand of Islam promoted by these fanatics, with Wahhabist influences, is becoming increasingly prevalent.
And instead of being ostracized or punished, the FPI has been brought in as consultants to enact Islamist bylaws by municipal councils in Indonesia. Even though the group is openly violent, and has contempt for Indonesia's constitution, or Pancasila, which advocates pluralism.
Introduction of Islamist Laws

One of the most significant factors in creating the current climate of Islamification was not a legal decision, but a religious one. A fatwa was issued by the MUI, the Indonesian Ulemas Council, on 27 July 2005, during its Seventh National Conference in Jakarta.
The fatwa, containing 11 decrees, banned inter-faith marriage, secularism, pluralism and liberal Islamic movements. It prohibited interfaith prayers unless these were led by Muslims and said that children who were of a different religion to their Muslim parents could not receive inheritance.
It issued a further prohibition, which declared that the Muslim sect known as Ahmadiyah (Ahmadi or Ahmadiyya) was an unlawful, "illegitimate" religion.
The consequences of this fatwa was devastating for the Ahmadiyah community, who number about 200,000 in Indonesia. Following the announcement, members of the sect were attacked in their communities, with mosques destroyed. We reported that on September 20 at Sukadana in West Java, a mob of 1,000 people attacked the local Ahmadiyyah community, damaging more than 70 homes and six mosques.
The anti-liberalism of the fatwa caused a progressive and moderate group, the Islamic Liberal Network to receive numerous death threats.
But national legislation has not helped the situation. Earlier in September, three Christian women from Indramayu, West Java, were charged under the nation's 2002 Child Protection Act, accused of trying to convert Muslim children. Their trial on September 1 had been brought by the MUI, because the three had invited Muslim children to come to an activity day, part of a "Happy Weekend" event. The women were sentenced to three years jail, even though they claimed they had not tried to convert the children. Their appeal in January failed and they remain in jail.
The situation which is leading to the current crisis became amplified when local city councils introduced Islamist bylaws. We first reported on these laws on March 12, at the same time as Islamist attacks upon Christians in Sulawesi began again with renewed vigor.
The city of Tangerang, outside Jakarta had introduced a new set of by-laws, which were ostensibly to outlaw gambling, drinking and prostitution. As a result of these laws, any woman who was found alone at night would be charged with prostitution.
Mrs LindawatiOne pregnant housewife, Lilis Lindawati (pictured, right), was waiting for a bus after staying late at work when she became arrested and thrown into jail. She was charged with being a prostitute the next morning. The judge asked her to open her handbag, and lipstick fell out. Judge Sinurat used this possession of make-up to decide that she was a prostitute. He fined her $40, which she was unable to pay, and consequently spent three days in jail. She is now prosecuting the mayor of Tangerang, Wahidin Halim, who introduced the law, for defamation and wrongful arrest.
At the same time as the introduction of Muslim morality-based bylaws, came the first protests against a new bill presented to the Indonesian parliament, called misleadingly the "Anti-Pornography Bill". This bill intends to address far more than pornography, which can be proibited under existing Criminal Code. For example, styles of dress which are "un-Islamic" and reveal areas of flesh can invoke a maximum jail term of 10 years and a 2 billion rupiah ($200,000) fine. As such, it would destroy the tourist industry of many islands, such as Bali, and neighbouring Lombok.
The bill's clauses about areas of exposed flesh, such as highs, hips, the navel and breasts, would also attack indigenous cultures, such as the Hindus of Bali whose saris often expose the navel, and the native cultures of West Papua, who are still wearing costumes from the stone age. Bali has become so enraged by the terms of the bill that is threatening to secede from Indonesia if the bill is passed.
Furthermore, the bill would make kissing on the mouth in public illegal. The proposed fine for such a crime would be a sentence of five years in jail, or a fine of 250,000 rupiah, equivalent to $27,000 US. For "erotic dancing", the same punishments would apply. And anyone organising such a display would be subjected to 10 years' jail, or a fine of 1 billion rupiahs ($100,000).
The bill's strongest supporters are the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the MUI and Hizb ut-Tahrir, with other groups such as the Anti-Apostasy Movement.
Its strongest detractors are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and women's groups, including Fatayat, the women's wing of the second largest Muslim group in Indonesia, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). NU has a membership of 30 million Muslims.
But the rise of the anti-pornography bill has seen the rise of Islamic by-laws. A former member of Fatyat called Masruchah, now secretary general of the Indonesian Women's Coalition for Justice and Democracy states: "The phenomena of the anti-pornography bill started with the appearance of by-laws in some of the regions. Although not explicitly packaged as anti-pornography, they have put in place of anti-prostitution laws, morality laws and even Islamic Sharia laws. All these laws attempt to force women back into their homes. I know of at least 27 regional by-laws that are similar, though not exactly the same as the anti-pornography law."
The bylaws being introduced have been criticised as unconstitutional, as we reported on April 20: In South Sulawesi, several administrative regions make it compulsory for female civil servants to wear Islamic dress. All government employees there must be able to read and write Arabic.
Mochtar Pabotinggi, a researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences agreed that the bylaws favoured Muslims above those of other religious beliefs, and ran counter to Indonesia's Constitution, written up in 1945. He said: "In a democracy, no majority group can dominate others."
"We have to respect other people who have different religions and not push them to do what Islam teaches. For instance, we cannot tell every woman who lives in Aceh to wear Muslim attire," he stated.
"Our Constitution appreciates pluralism as an Indonesian way of life. Administrations have to make bylaws that do not contradict the Constitution," Mochtar said. "We cannot utilize two systems of law to regulate a society. The bylaws have the potential to endanger the country's unity since they ignore the essence of pluralism."
The "constitution" is called the Pancasila, and as we reported on May 4: In Depok, which like Tangerang is another satellite town of Jakarta, the proposed institution of Islamic bylaws was drawn up with the violent extremist group the Front Pembela Islam or "Islamic Defenders' Front". [The other group which took part in consultations is the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI).]
In Aceh, the strict Sharia rules proposed for Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam district will force all non-Muslims to be ruled by Sharia, even if their "crimes" such as adultery are not illegal under secular law. Unusually for local rulings, the order for non-Muslims to be treated here under Sharia was made by state secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra of the Indonesian government.
Syafi'i Anwar, who is the executive director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP) said: The growing efforts to implement sharia are really part of the gradual "sharia-ization" in the country. After Aceh which officially adopted sharia under the special Autonomy Law, many regions have followed suit. Initially, only a few regions such as Cianjur, Tasikmalaya, Padang and Bulukumba introduced this bylaw. In 2005, 13 regencies demanded sharia and up to now, 18 regions have already or are about to adopt it."
"Some of the regencies have even adopted sharia in a way that discriminates against minority groups. For instance, the Padang municipal administration issued a bylaw requiring all schoolgirls, regardless of their religion, to wear the jilbab (Muslim headscarf). The bylaw is unacceptable because it is not in line with pluralism which the Constitution recognizes."
"The move to impose sharia is against the Constitution. Indeed, Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, but not an Islamic state. Our Constitution is not based on sharia but the state ideology of Pancasila. Pancasila is a kalimatun sawa, a common platform of Indonesian society."
Anwar stated that there are 400 ethnic groups in the archipelago of Indonesia, located on 17,000 different islands. Article 29 of Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
About 12% of people in Indonesia are not Muslim, and it is an abuse of their rights, as well as a breach of the terms of Indonesia's constitution, to force Islamism upon non-Muslims.
By allowing itself to be led by groups of such blatant criminality such as the FPI, whose leaders are not even Indonesian but come from the Middle East, the Indonesian government is allowing a form of "islamification" to happen than is being controlled by foreigners and extremists, rather than by the will of the population.
The Corruption Of Politics
On March 10 we reported that hardline Islamist groups had been pressuring the government of Indonesia to denounce the Ahmadiyyah sect. As a result, Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni responded by announcing that the Ahmadiyyah should renounce their claims to be Muslim, and should declare themselves as a new religion.
Gus DurWe discussed on May 5 the views of Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (pictured) a genuine Muslim moderate, who was President of Indonesia between 1999, following Suharto's demise, and July 2001. Between 1984 and 1999 he had been the leader of the moderate Nadhlatul Ulama (NU).
Wahid, also known by his nickname of Gus Dur, has recently been arguing strongly against the move away from pluralism to Islamist monotheism. And for his pains, he and his followers have been vilified.

The links which follow, marked jp* are derived from the Jakarta Post, but cannot be accessed immediately, as they are archived, and require free registration to be retrieved.
Gus Dur is in no doubt that the Front Pembela Islam (FPI) are responsible for a climate of lawlessness and militant Islam, threatening Indonesia. At a rally on Tuesday May 23, Gus Dur himself was forced off a stage by members of FPI at a rally at Purwakarta in West Java. The FPI mob attacked him for his opposition to the anti-pornography bill. Habib Riziq, head of FPI said that Gus Dur's appearance in Purwakarta had "hurt the feelings of every Muslim." He refuses to apologise for the assault, and claims his group will continue to push for the implementation of the anti-pornography bill, and demands that police support the FPI.
On Friday, May 26 (jp*), hundreds of his supporters demonstrated to demand the disbandment of the FPI. They demonstrated in Jakarta at the National Police Headquarters, and also at the base of the FPI in Slipi, central Jakarta.
At the Jakarta National Police HQ, the supporters included members of the Garda Bangsa a paramilitary group allied to the National Awakening Party, as well as Christian youth organisation members, and the paramilitary force of Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) called Banser. They were united under the banner of the Alliance for an Antiviolent Society.
The Garda Bangsa leader, Eman Hendarman, said: "The FPI have slandered Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), who is our leader, a former president, a national unity symbol and our imam. Their actions cannot be tolerated."
Eman continued: "We demand the police enforce the law. Violent organizations that wage terror and criminal acts have to be stopped. We didn't notify Gus Dur about this protest. He would have objected to this because he is a man of peace and wouldn't approve of any actions that could incite violence."
Garda Bangsa members also demonstrated on the same day (Friday) in East Java, in the town of Jember. There, hundreds of FPI supporters clashed with Garda Bangsa members, though no-one was seriously hurt.
The deputy chairman of NU, condemning FPI, has told the Jakarta Post: "Violent acts should not be tolerated. They do not represent Muslims as they claim to do."
The events of Friday May 26 became overshadowed by a tumultous event the following day, the earthquake in Yoghyakarta, which claimed more than 4,000 lives.
Some of the FPI have been dealt with recently. On Monday May 22 (jp*), the head of the local FPI at Bekasi in West Java was arrested, along with 20 of his followers. Abdul Qodir and his group were accused of smashing up several cafes and alleged sites of prostitution in Bekasi city that weekend.
About 60 members of the FPI had gone on the rampage in the suburb of Pondok Gede, armed with sticks, after attending a mass rally in Jakarta in support of the anti-pornography bill, organised by FPI and the MUI, which we reported upon.
A police spokesman ensured that his force did not appear too partisan. They announced that the 21 FPI members would be charged with destroying property, and that Abdul Qodir would be charged with incitement. However, he also announced that the cafe-owners would be charged with illegal sale of alcoholic drinks.
On the day of the pro-Gus Dur rallies, the Bekasi FPI (jp*) membership demanded the release of the 21 activists from police custody. They claimed in a written statement that they had only acted upon requests from the community. However, the following day saw the police resisting the FPI requests, and insisting on keeping its suspects in custody.
There have been plans to attempt to use Indonesia's laws and constitution to quell the mushrooming of Islamist by-laws in Indonesia. On Monday, May 22 (jp*), women's rights activists were reported to be campaigning for support for an attempt to demand a Supreme Court review of 26 shariah-based bylaws enacted in various regencies and municipalities.
As well as contravening the 1945 constitution, guaranteeing equal rights for men and women, and violate international accords to shich Indonesia has signed up. These include the 2005 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 law on women.
Masruchah, whom we described above, pointed to discrepancies within some by-laws: "In some regencies in South Sulawesi province, the bylaws require women to wear Muslim clothes but they do not prescribe the same thing for men. The bylaws curtail women's rights to move and act. In the West Java regency of Cianjur, women are seen as 'good women' only if they wear Muslim clothes."
The leader of the Jakarta branch of Legal Aid Foundation for Women (LBH-APIK), Ratna Batara Munti, notes the inequality of laws across regions, and calls for a nationwide movement to oppose discrimination. She states that dress laws discriminate against women and other laws discriminate against human rights. "In Palembang city (in South Sumatra), being a homosexual is punishable by jail terms and hefty fines," she said, adding: "It is the right of every person to determine his or her sexual orientation." The Palembang law does not condemn only homosexual acts, but the very state of "being" homosexual.
Tangerang's rulings which state that women alone outside at night without a male chaperone are condemned as prostitutes are already under examination by lawmakers. The Coalition to Oppose Discriminatory Local Ordinances filed a request for a judicial review of this ordinance at the Supreme Court.
A recent article from Asia News states that some scholars are now claiming that if Indonesia's government does not step in to act now, Indonesia will become an Islamist state, a move which was never intended when it was founded.
Muhammad Husein, the executive director of the Fahmina Institute in Cirebon, has claimed (jp*) that the MUI's fatwas from July 2005 are tarnishing Islam's reputation. He said: "Despite their non-binding nature, the fatwa are in line with the emergence of hard-line groups who fight for their political interests by abusing Islam."
Ahmad Suaedy, director of the Wahid Institute, set up by Gus Dur, said: "The hard-liners are using these edicts to legitimize their violent acts, while MUI has perversely used this violence to justify its fatwa. The FPI and MMI are taking advantage of people's religious illiteracy to make trouble."
The chairman of NU or Nahdlatul Ulama, Haysim Muzadi, said this week in an interview (jp*) that his group opposed the "formalisation" of Islam in the nation.
He said: "The public is skeptical about sharia. Even upon hearing the word sharia people have negative preconceptions. Islam should be understood in substance, not in rigid interpretation of the scripture, and therefore it should not be formalized as the common principle in multireligious and multiethnic Indonesia."
"For example, the Tangerang mayor's anti-prostitution ordinance. What's the point of adopting it? No religion permits prostitution. Besides, the crime is dealt with in the Criminal Code, so why not enforce the existing laws instead of making a new bylaw? If the bylaw is based on Islamic values, it creates problems with citizens of other faiths."
YudhoyonoLast week, the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pictured right), finally emerged from his ivory tower to condemn the attempts to shift Indonesia's society away from the concept of the Pancasila. Speaking at a ceremony (jp*) to commemorate the founding of the Pancasila, he reminded his audience of the diversity of Indonesia's inhabitants, belonging to different faiths and cultural traditions.
Yudhoyono said: "Let us make Pancasila the basis for reform. In this period of transition, many of us tend to create new realities and directions but abandon the old values, which should become part of our identity and be used as a tool for unity."
"We should end the debate on alternatives to the Pancasila as our ideology. We should keep on with efforts to increase the people's welfare and to uphold justice based on the ideology that we have."
Though implicitly stating that diversity, rather than Islamism, was the key to Indonesian harmony and stability, Yudhoyono stopped short of making an outright condemnation of the current moves to turn Indonesia into an Islamist state.
Yesterday, June 8 (jp*), the government issued an ultimatum to the Islamist hardline groups to abide by the law.
The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Widodo Adi Sutjipto, said: "Acts promoting anarchy, threats of terror, or moves to take the law into one's own hands are classified as crimes, which will be processed under the country's existing laws....We have never tolerated any wrongdoing, regardless of who or what groups are implicated in it. Our (the government's) stance is clear, that we must enforce the supremacy of the law and equality before the law."
This statement should have been made, and acted upon, a year ago. It is possible that with current trends in Indonesia, such comments are too little, and too late.
Posted by Giraldus Cambrensis at June 9, 2006 4:29 PM

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