Indonesian Political Islam: The Vanishing Wall

THE fall of Soeharto in May 1998 and the decline of authoritarian regime in Indonesia followed by people’s great enthusiasm for democracy has gradually and in a sense almost extremely changed both of the country’s political structure and culture.

Eventually, the transitional administration under B.J. Habibie and the Parliament opened the tap of democracy and abolished the restriction of forming political parties. The new administration also promised not to interfere internal affairs of any political parties, including party’s ideology.

The reformasi movement had managed to pressure Habibie administration to develop a new foundation for Indonesian politics after three decades dictatorship. In 1999 alone, Habibie administration together with the House of Representatives (DPR) passed three political bills giving strong commitment toward institutionalization of democracy practices. The first bill, Law No. 2/1999, was about the right for people to form independent political party. The Law had permitted any political party to hold its own ideology and characteristic together with aspiration and program as long as there is no contradiction with the state ideology, the Pancasila. However, there is no further explanation about what that can or cannot be justified as an inconsistency against the Pancasila.

The second bill, Law No. 3/1999, was about the general elections, which based on the 1998 Extraordinary Session of People’s Consultative Assembly (SI-MPR) would be rescheduled from the original plan in 2002 to 1999. The third bill, Law No. 4/1999, was about the composition of MPR and DPR, and local/regional DPR. The Law reduced the number of MPR’s members from 1,000 to 700 consisting of 500 DPR members and 200 appointed members from regional legislatures (135 members) and various social/functional groups (65 members). The number of military fraction’s member in DPR was also reduced from 75 to 38. At the same time the number or DPR’s directly elected member was increased from 425 to 462. In 2003, the new bill about election, Law No. 12/2003, has been released. This time the military faction in DPR was determined, and the number of DPR’s directly elected member was increased to 550 seats.

The new Indonesian political structure and culture has also regenerated and revived the debate on political Islam in the country. This is one of classical subjects and yet fundamental issues in modern Indonesian discourse. Baswedan (2004) refers political Islam to any effort that promotes “Muslim” aspiration and carries an Islamic agenda into law and government policy through the electoral process and representative (legislative) institution.
Nevertheless, in my understanding, the bottom line of what is called political Islam is whether or not such activities done by any individual or Muslim group influence and stimulate the political process and therefore, farther than that, determines the practice of democracy.

These activities can or cannot be carried through electoral process. In some cases, the political discourse has been changed by non-parliamentarian Muslim groups’ strong maneuvers. For instance, pressure given by Muslim fundamentalist groups has influenced Indonesian government’s decision to freeze Ahmadiyah sect organization in 2008. Or, pressure given by many Muslim groups during Soeharto era had affected government’s policy in closing the national lottery and abolishing the prohibition for female student to wear a veil in public school.

Undoubtedly, Islamists group was one of key players and co-founders of modern Indonesia. During the revolution and pre-independence era, Islamic clerics and ulamas had strong and precise contribution to the formation of independent Indonesia. Islamic Trading Union (SDI), for instance, was one of the first modern organizations in colonial era, embodying a sense of Indonesia nationalism to its members in many cities. Indeed, the widespread of Islamic teaching across the country since hundreds years ago together with the use of bazaar Malay by many of middle class across the archipelago was one of fundamental factors in Indonesian nationalism amalgamation (Kahin, 2003).

The discussion and exchanging ideas among Indonesian founding fathers, Muslim intellectual and theorist concerning to the foundation of modern Indonesia had started back to the first decades of 20th century. However, the ideological discourse between Islamist and nationalist was emerged from their strong willing to find out the best foundation for the country and to set up mutual identity that can be used as the ultimate umbrella covering all the people across the archipelago, instead of evolved from the differences of the devotion degree toward Islam among them (Effendy, 2003).

There is a common feature that in the post-authoritarian era, political Islam advocates in Indonesia have exerted two major streams to channel their Islamic aspirations and desires. Some of them have taken the legal and formal political approach in working on their objective by establishing, or joining in any, Islamic parties. From about 200 new political parties established following the fall of Soeharto until weeks before the 1999 election, at least 41 political parties were categorized as Islamic parties. Some of these parties accepted both of Islam and Pancasila, meanwhile some others recognized only Islam as their ideology. Nevertheless, there were only 20 Islamic political parties, among 48 political parties, qualified to participate in the 1999 election.

At the same time there was also a widespread concern that the new party system might lead to the type of “identity politics” that contributed to the collapse of Indonesia’s first experiment with parliamentary democracy in the 1950s (Woodward, 2001).

In another hand, some of Indonesian political Islam advocates have chosen non-legal formal political approach by organizing interest and pressure groups. Some of them are publicly open their existence and activities, whereas some others are underground, secret and clandestine organizations with violence modus operandi. Whatever the form of this type of political Muslim groups, one thing for sure is that they are benefited from the absence of the strong state apparatuses and the presence of the weak law enforcement. More than that, in some cases they were hand in hand with the state apparatuses and even they were organized and used by the “state” to control the movement of pro-democracy pressure groups.

Sidel (2006) notes the development and extension of violence and conflicts in many regions involving Muslim pressure groups, from riots (1995-1997) to pogroms (1998-2001) and jihads (2001-2005). Until 2005, there were at least four bomb-attacks done by Muslim fundamentalist groups in the name of retaliation toward Western global colonization and social gap among the society (See Imam Samudera testimony, 2004). The doers also out cried for the implementation of what they understand as Islamic law and, farther than that, Islamic state. The government and international community believe that Muslim groups behind all bomb-campaigns have strong connection to international terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Taliban. Sidel also underlines that the jihadi movement in Indonesia are “completely premeditated, carefully planned and coordinated activities by small groups of heavily armed, trained, full time jihadi fighters and conspirators.”

Obviously the rise of legal-formal political Islam groups and the high number of religious violence done by Muslim organizations is such an irony in Indonesian new democracy. Therefore, this paper is portraying the most striking point in the political Islam debate in post-Soeharto era: why when there is a widespread and strong commitment toward democracy shown by many Muslim politicians, some other Muslim groups persist to pressure and use violence in voicing out their aspirations and desires. Is it because Islam as a set of values contradicts with the idea of democracy and pluralism? Or, is there any political reason behind the movement of Muslim fundamentalist organization? In this paper I also would like to give brief description about the constellation of political Islam one decade after the fall of Soeharto.

Islam and Democracy: Compatible or Contrary

Many studies have been conducted to find better explanation about relationship between Islam and pluralistic democracy in many contexts. The U.S.’ National Intelligence Council (NIC) forecasts that the borderless and nation-less spread of radical Muslim will have a significant global impact leading to 2020.

According to the project based on consultation with many of nongovernmental experts around the world and published in December 2004, there is also a strong tendency that radical Islam will bust their effort to create “an authority that transcends national boundaries.” The project also predicts that until 2025 Islam will be the religion with the highest growth in the world (2,2 percent) followed by Sikh (1,8 percent).

The historical claimants about the glorious triumphant of Islam in the past will be the center of the doctrine speeding the growth of radical Islam. “Part of the appeal of radical Islam involves its call for a return by Muslims to earlier roots when Islamic civilization was at the forefront of global change. The collective feelings of alienation and estrangement, which radical Islam draws upon, are unlikely to dissipate until the Muslim world again appears to be more fully integrated into the world economy.”

Moreover, radical Islam is projected “will continue to appeal to many Muslim migrants who are attracted to the more prosperous West for employment opportunities but do not feel at home in what they perceive as an alien culture” and “many second-generation and third-generation Muslim immigrants are drawn to radical Islam as they encounter obstacles to full integration and barriers to what they consider to be normal religious practices.”

Long before the NIC’s project, Samuel P. Huntington (1996) has warned the Western society that Islam will be among their challengers. In his “clash of civilization” theory, Huntington predicts that the futures conflict will not about the primarily ideological or economical. The great division among humankinds and the dominating source of conflict, he underlines, will be cultural. Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future and the world will simply be shaped in large measure by the interaction among emerging civilizations, namely Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and African. Moreover the fundamental challenge for the Western civilization will be Islam. Huntington has also argued that not all societies and civilization are compatible and likely to develop democratic institution and democratic culture. Therefore, military interaction between the West and Islam, he believes, is unlikely to decline (Hefner, 2001).

Bernard Lewis (2003) argues that the major problem in contemporary Islamic world is not because Islam as a set of values has failed to illuminate its adherents. The problem within Islamic world is mainly caused by the inability of Muslim to pursue the world’s development. This failure makes the Muslim easily blames the rest of the world, especially Western society, and see it as an enemy.

On another hand, the tension between Islam and Western civilization has also been triggered by the Western domination over Muslim world in the course of 19th and 20th century. From this point of view, the Western colonization in Muslim world has contribution to the weakness of Muslims. Obviously, the Western has invaded the Muslim “in every aspect of his public and –more painful– even private live.” Lewis believes that the contemporary Muslims’ incapability in building their own civilization is caused by internal tendency among the Muslims to de-contextualize Islamic teaching. By doing this Muslim has failed to continue Islamic world’s role as a defender of freedom, center to science and economic development as it had done in the past.

In looking at the relationship between Islam and the idea of pluralistic democracy, Hefner (2001) underlines historical views where Islam and Muslim civilization, like others great civilizations’ politics and culture was never monolithic. In fact Islam and Muslim world was always plural, since the very beginning of Muhammad’s prophecy, and indeed pluralism is one of it basic teaching.

If this is the case, if Islam is compatible with the basic idea of pluralism and democracy, why we have Muslim fundamentalist groups in many countries in this world which likely to use violence and terror as their modus operandi in dealing with other civilization, particularly Western world?

Chalmers Johnson (2000) approaches this question using his profound explanation about “blowback theory”. Like Lewis, he believes that whatever comes from the Muslim society has something to do with what the Western world had done to it. In sum, the Muslim fundamentalist group has only given reaction toward Western domination. In his words, Johnson says that the Muslim fundamentalist aggressiveness toward Western society “is a reaction to clandestine operation carried out by the US government that are aimed at overthrowing foreign regimes, or seeking the execution of people the US wants eliminated by friendly foreign armies, or having launch state terrorist operation against overseas target population.”

Therefore, in facing this “blowback”, Western world, especially the people, needs to understand the whole context and then needs to take different method compared to what the previous western regime had been done. Surely, it is not an easy thing to do after so many political disasters had been made.

Amartya Sen (2006) also tries to touch this subject by criticizing clash of civilization theory. According to Sen, the difficulty in this thesis begins with the assumption of the unique relevance of a singular classification. The question whether or not civilizations clash “is founded on the presumption that humanity can be pre-eminently classified into distinct and discrete civilizations.”

Muslims, he says, is just like other common people in the world. They have many different pursuits, and yet not all of them likely to have their priorities and values be placed within their singular identity, in this case, of being Muslim. In fact, there is no single human being with only one distinct identity. Human being is shaped by many factors: backgrounds, experiences and relation with other human being, society, community and civilization. Moreover, the response to Muslim fundamentalism becomes particularly confused when there is a general failure to distinguish between Islam and Muslim, and history of each.

Islam and Politics in Indonesia

In Indonesian context as in other places in the world, Hefner (2001) emphasizes that political Islam “has been shaped by broad changes in the state and society”. Under the authoritarian New Order, following the merger of five Islamic parties in 1973 into the Union Development Party (PPP) and based on their understanding that they couldn’t challenge the authority, Muslim leaderships split into two camps over the question of long-term Islamic groups’ political goals. The first camp led by Masyumi senior figures, one of prominent Islamic political party in the previous era.

In the 1955 election Masyumi had 22 percent of total seats in the parliament locating the party in the runner up after the Indonesian National Party (PNI) who had similar percentage. The new political environment pushed this group to switch their constituency from the middle-businessman class to the “lumpen proletarian” urban poor and lower class. They believed that sufficient mass base was needed to revive the party and to capture the authority of the state one-day in future.

The second camp, consists of younger modernist Muslims with non-party background, had tendency to reject the idea of Islamic state and consider it simply a simply mythology. Unlike the senior modernists who always glorified Muslim caliphate in the past, the younger modernists were “particularly proud of the Indonesian heritage of ethno-religious pluralism” of the country. In another hand they saw that conservative group had a strong tendency to mix up Arab culture and Islamic teaching and a will to inject this confusion into Indonesia society. For this group, the ultimate aim of political Islam should be the creation of (Muslim) civil society, not centralized state with monopoly rights over politics and culture in one hand of regime.

All kind of authoritarianism and anti-pluralism, whatever the “ideal value” behind it, is totally wrong and need to be avoided. Strong and health civil society, they believe, is required to counterbalance the authoritarian regime of the state and to promote “a public culture of pluralism, participation, and social justice.”

Woodward (2001) and Riddell (2002) works are among many studies on the subject of Indonesian political Islam after the fall of Soeharto. Their studies result with quite similar anatomy of Muslim society in Indonesia, underlining the important of traditional and modernist schools. Similar to classical study on Clifford Geertz’s Javanese religion, Woodward considers the indigenous understanding of Islamic teaching as one of significant features of Indonesian political Muslim. Meanwhile, Riddell gives large attention to the modernist group that even might work within secular democratic system but at the same time perceives an agenda to replace the existing system with what they understand and believe as Islamic law. In looking at each category, I would like to give brief information about the latest development from the current situation in the political field.

The first school among the Indonesian Muslim societies, in Woodward term, is indigenized Islam. By this terminology he refers to the kind of mixture between Islamic teachings and traditional believes that is commonly found in the country especially in the central and east Java. People who rely on this kind of orientation tend to think that they are devout Muslims even though in general they tend to ignore behavior required by Islamic law. They would like to combine religious practices with many elements of traditional and cultural mysticism. They believe that certain individuals have sacred power given by the Creator of the world and life. Then, they also believe pilgrimages to what they consider as sacred graves and the worship of holy-men would be benefit them both during their life and in the life after.

Megawati Soekarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party- Struggle (PDIP) has gained massive support from this group. For the Javanist, or abangan in Geertz’s terminology, Megawati has inherited such spiritual power from her father, Sukarno. To show their support and total obedience toward her, some of Megawati’ supporters would like to wash her feet and drink the water. Some others display their loyalty to Megawati by signing a white banner using their blood. They believe that Megawati could solve the fundamental problems of the country. Indeed, Megawati was an effective icon during anti-Soeharto campaign. Abangan group tends to have similar affection to Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, the current traditional king of Jogjakarta and one of Golkar Party’s prominent figures.

In 1999 election, Megawati’s PDIP secured the first place with 33 percent of total seats in DPR. However, Islamic parties coalition, known Poros Tengah or Central Axis led by Amien Rais of National Mandate Party (PAN), crashed Megawati and her follower’s desire for presidential palace. Mega lost to NU’s leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, in the presidential election by the MPR.

Nevertheless, a day later Megawati won the vice-presidential election. In 2001 Megawati got her momentum. Together with the majority of 1999 Central Axis, she toppled Gus Dur down. Megawati led the country until 2004. Nevertheless, due to, one among others, her administration’s poor performance, PDIP lost to the second place in the 1999 election. Golkar Party, the well-known “nationalist-secular” party with many prominent Muslim leaders and Muslim younger generations in it, secured the first place. It was not the only defeat for Megawati at that year.

In 2004 presidential election, Megawati lost to Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had served as one of her ministry and is a mastermind behind a new political party, Democrat Party. This party has self-proclaimed a “nationalist-religious” party. Benefited by his conflict with Megawati, Yudohoyono’s charisma and political communication skill made possible for the party to secure the fifth place with 10 percent of total seats in DPR. In the first round of 2004 presidential election Yudhoyono was supported by two other small parties, PKPI with only 0.18 percent of total seats in DPR and Islam “fundamentalist” party of Moon and Star Party (PBB) with 2 percent of total seats in DPR. In the second round, many others Islamic parties joined with him, including PAN, PKS, PKB, and PPP.

The next school is traditionalist, with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) as its major icon. The organization is considered as the biggest Indonesian Muslim organization with about 40 million members across the country. Established in 1920s and extremely hierarchical, NU members are mainly found in east part of Java. Woodward notes that the organization’s original purpose was “to promote and defend Sunni Muslim traditionalism, which combines adherence to the teachings of the four classical legal traditions with Sufi devotional practice and mysticism.”

Due to its huge membership, in fact NU is also considered as the biggest Muslim organization in the world, NU always be a rich field among the national and local politicians. Winning the NU-ers is considered a big step in winning the whole political contest. In the 1955 election NU was the third biggest party, after the Indonesian National Party (PNI) and Masyumi and followed by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). During New Order, NU leadership announced that the organization would like to come back to its original idea as non-formal political organization, and therefore withdrew from the PPP. Since that, many of NU figures joined with Golkar, while some others stayed within the PPP. Following the fall of Soeharto, NU leadership agreed to establish National Awakening Party or PKB. In 1999 and 2004 election, the party held 11 and 10 percent of total seats in DPR, securing the fourth place after PDIP, Golkar Party, and PPP.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid had benefited from the absolute obedience of NU members. However, severe internal conflict at these days has weakened the PKB. Wahid’s faction lost in judicial cases against the party’s former secretary general and one of current DPR’s leaderships, Muhaimin Iskandar. Based on the judicial verdict, Iskandar is now the legitimated leadership of the PKB. Dissatisfaction drives Wahid and its followers move to eventually support a new party, established by retired Army general and former Soeharto’s son in law, Prabowo Subijanto. Meanwhile, other NU leaderships, known as Kiai Langitan camp, who have strong disagreement with Wahid for so many years, have established a new party, the PKNU, as an alternative party for NU members who also disappointed by PKB’s highly serious internal conflict. One of PKNU leaderships was former PKB’s chairman and former foreign ministry in Wahid administration, Alwi Shihab.

Islamic modernism is the next school among Muslim society in Indonesia. The school is seemed as an opposite of the previous group. The school considers that mysticism and the ritual practices associated with it, especially pilgrimage to holy graves, are non-Islamic and therefore those who practice these rituals are not Muslims. Inside this school, following Riddell’s work, there is a neo-modernist liberal group. This group tends “not to see Islam through the lens of Sharia law, but rather in term of universal value.” They also open multi interpretation about Islam based on logic and strong reason.

Unlike the followers of traditionalist group, the followers of modernist school are mainly found in urban and cities area. Muhammadiyah, established in 1912, is the biggest organizations within the modernist school. With around 30 million members, Muhammadiyah is considered the second largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, or may also be the second biggest in the world. Following the fall of Soeharto, Muhammadiyah leadership together with others prominent modernist pro-democracy figures, some were non-Muslims, established National Mandate Party (PAN) chaired by Muhammadiyah’s Amien Rais. Secured only small number of DPR seats (34 or 7.3 percent) in 1999 election made Rais had to submerge his desire of being a president. Nevertheless his high profile and skill helped him to be elected the chairman of People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). Rais was the man behind Wahid’s success to win the presidential election that year. He was also the man behind the trick to topple Wahid down in 2001. During the presidential election in 1999, Rais and his group, Central Axis, benefited from the “controversial” Islamic dogma that forbids woman (Megawati whose party won 34 percent of votes) to lead a country. But in 2001, this coalition put a side the dogma and let Megawati, who was Wahid’s vice-president, to take over the empty chair left by Wahid.

In 2004 election Rais’ party held 6.4 percent of total votes and 53 seats in DPR (9.63 percent). However, Rais lost in the first round of the 2004 presidential election. In the second round, Rais and PAN joined the coalition to support Democrat’s ticket, Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla. In 2005 Rais stepped down from PAN’s chairmanship. He supported a flamboyant businessman, Soetrino Bachir. Rais maneuver has provoked criticism toward him and the party. Muhammadiyah has changed its favor toward the PAN. Some younger generations in Muhammadiyah established new party, Nation’s Sun Party (PMB), and strongly relate the party to Muhammadiyah.

At the same time, the new leadership of PAN has also changed the party’s direction to the “more secular”. Amien Rais, in many informal conversations, has openly shown his bad feeling toward the PAN new leadership. Some of PAN prominent figures also left the party. Former finance ministry in Soeharto’s last cabinet, Fuad Bawazier, and former PAN’s legislature and vocalist, Samuel Kotto, joined the new party led by retired Army general Wiranto, People’s Heart Party (Hanura).

Wiranto was Golkar’s presidential candidate in the 2004 presidential election. His new party also has attracted politicians from others parties, including Islamic parties such as PKB (A.S. Hikam, scholar and former ministry of Wahid’s cabinet is one among the former PKB members who join the Hanura), and Reformation’s Star Party (PBR), a former faction within the PPP.

Woodward’s work notes that other modernist political organizations have more theological and political roots to the thought of Muhammad Natsir (1908-1993), one of the leading figures in the Unity of Islam or Persis. Natsir and his followers have similarity in theological agenda with Muhammadiyah.

But, in the same line with Riddell’s work, unlike Muhammadiyah, Persis places “greater emphasis on political struggle and on establishing an explicitly Islamic state.” The most well known Islamic political party that shares theological and political agenda with this school is the Justice and Prosperous Party (PKS). The party was established in 1999 where in the 1999 election it gained a very small number (7 seats in DPR or 1.5 percent).

Amazingly, with slightly adjustment in his campaigns, mainly focus on the anti-corruption rather than Islamic issues within national and internal level, at the 2004 election the PKS secured bigger number of seats in DPR, 45 seats, locating the party at the sixth place. Its chairman, Hidayat Nurwahid, was elected the chairman of MPR. As the presidential election is coming, Nurwahid has shown his favor to either presidential or vice-presidential ticket. Following the decision of Jusuf Kalla, Vice President and the Chairman of Golkar Party, to fight head to head against Yudhoyono, the PKS leaderships actively maintain political communication with Yudhoyono’s camp. With the decline of PAN, among other reasons, looks like PKS will face less challenge in the coming election to secure more support from Muslim modernist group.

Fundamentalism in Indonesian Political Islam

Nevertheless, the fall of Soeharto is also followed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Hefner (2005) observes three major paramilitaries who have strong favor toward Islamic law and Islamic state, and tend to use non-legal formal approach in carrying out their political aspiration and desires. As I mentioned above, one thing for sure is that these Islam fundamentalist groups had benefited from the absence of strong state apparatus and the presence of weak law enforcement. In many cases, they were hand in hand with “state” apparatuses to crash down the progress of modernist pro-democracy group.

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) led by Al Habib Muhammad Rizieq bin Hussein Syihab, for instance, has relationship with the country’s high-ranking security officials. The organization has recruited many of its membership from urban poor neighborhoods of Tanah Abang in Jakarta and ranks of petty gangsters. In November 1998, under the invitation of Army Commander General Wiranto, the organization joined the march of 100.000 “voluntary security forces” or pam swakarsa to secure the Extraordinary Session of People’s Consultative Assembly (SI-MPR) and the Habibie administration from possible threat from pro-democracy group. In March and April 2001, FPI were in the same line with conservative members of the military and former ruling party activists in anticommunist campaign. They ransacked bookstores selling what they consider leftist and socialist literatures.

Last year FPI led massive demonstration and requested Yudhoyono administration to ban Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia. The organization has argued that Ahmadiyah corrupts Islamic teaching and therefore has no right to be called Islam. In many places, FPI followers attacked and demolished Ahmadiyah mosques and kicked out Ahmadiyah followers. Rizieq and others FPI leaderships were caught by police and has been sentenced following the clash between FPI members and supporter with the pro-democracy group in Jakarta, June 2008. Nevertheless, Yudhoyono administration agreed to ban Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia. This decision has been criticized by many of Indonesian pro-democracy activists.

Laskar Jihad led by Jafar Umar Thalib also has good relation with the Army retired high-ranking officials and Army active commanders. In January 2000, several Army retired high-ranking officials and Army commanders approached Laskar Jihad and asked this organization to mobilize its members and Muslim in general to respond the Christian attack in Maluku. Hefner underlines that the military agents share similar favor with Laskar Jihad. They blamed Wahid administration for Maluku conflict. They also had bad feeling toward Wahid’s plan to reopen the 1965-1966 mass killing of communist and anyone who had been accused communist. For some of hardliner in the Indonesian military, being communist sympathizer will always be an unforgivable mistake.

Following the September 11 attacks in New York and the spread of the anti-terrorism campaign all over the world, Indonesian authorities pressed Islam fundamentalist groups, including Laskar Jihad. At the end of 2002 there was a split in Laskar Jihad leadership. Thalib had argued that there was no point to continue their armed struggle without sufficient support from the military faction. Therefore Thalib insisted to dedicate himself to religious education. Meanwhile some of former commander of Laskar Jihad had claimed that they would renew the armed jihad with or without Thalib when the situation allowed.

The last Islam fundamentalist group in Hefner’s study is Indonesian Mujahiddin Council (MMI) led by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. Founded in Jogjakarta, August 2000, MMI was dedicated to the implementation of Islamic law and establishment of Islamic state. At late 1970’s Ba’asyir and his friend Abdullah Sungkar were arrested and accused for their involvement in the Komando Jihad violence. They were released in 1982, and fled to Malaysia in 1985. In this country they continued their service to recruit membership to their network. In 1999, after the fall dawn of Soeharto, they returned to Indonesia and involved in Mujahiddin Congress in August 2000. Hefner’s study says that in the final years of Soeharto’s time, both of Ba’asyir and Sungkar were influenced by the Egyptian’s al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, a breakaway of Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood. Both of them also rejected to reconcile with Soeharto in the mid of 1950s, as some of their colleagues took a different way. This legacy explains why Ba’asyir and MMI have always been regarded with suspicion in military and old regime circle.

Nasir Abas, former operational leader of Jamaah Islamiyya, in his testimony (2006) admits that each Sungkar and Ba’asyir was chairman of Jamaah Islamiyya. But, he explains that Jamaah Islamiyya is a fraction of the Indonesian Islamic State (NII), established by SM Kartosuwiryo in West Java back to 1950s. Kartosuwiryo had been caught and killed by the military in 1965. Last year, Ba’asyir left the MMI and established new organization, named Anshorut Tauhid. In front of public, Ba’asyir has stated that he has disagreement with other MMI leaderships. While his former compatriots in MMI persisted to communal leadership based on electoral system-style in the organization, Ba’asyir insisted to the imam-style of leadership where there is only one supreme leader, and that democracy is not known in Islam. Ba’asyir has argued that he based his argument on the Islamic teaching and the Prophet Muhammad’s deeds.

Many Muslim modernist scholars criticize his argument for two basic reasons. First, his argument never existed during Muhammad’s lifetime, and second, only in democratic polity, such as Indonesia, Ba’asyir’s idea can be granted right of life. Nevertheless, another story says that government and military faction have approached Ba’asyir by using “material factors” he agreed to loose the tension. Ba’asyir had been sentenced for two times, 2004 and 2005, for involvement in 2002 Bali bombing and 2003 bomb attack in Jakarta Marriot Hotel. In 2006 the Supreme Court released him from any convictions.

Conclusion: Strong State Apparatus vs Self-interest Law Enforcement

As a closing statement, I would like to underline some of fundamental values on the subject of political Islam in one decade after the fall of Soeharto. First, the end of authoritarianism has opened political participation and followed by the mushrooming of political parties, including Islamic parties.

Second, the recent debate over political Islam is one among results of this new democracy. All Muslim factions and political parties can practice their right in democratic sphere, where some of them use the electoral and parliamentary process and some others use non-electoral process. Both of these methods affect the political process and democracy practices in national level.

Third, seems like Islamic agenda is not among the priority of many Islamic parties for this time being. This can be seen from divisions within the parties based on more-secular reasons.

Meanwhile, the rise of Muslim fundamentalist organization is a result of the absence of the strong state apparatus and the presence of self-interest law enforcement. There is also a sense of suspicion that factions in military have used Muslim fundamentalist groups in challenging the civilian administration, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri.


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Born in Medan, lives in Jakarta, loves Indonesia.

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