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Islamic state only a step away: Scholars
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia will turn into a Islamic state if the government does nothing to counter the violence committed by hard-line religious groups or the repressive, sharia-inspired bylaws passed by local governments, moderate Muslim scholars warn.
Dozens of regions across the country have enacted sharia-style bylaws and lawmakers are currently deliberating the controversial pornography bill that is much opposed by moderate scholars and human rights activists.
Muslim hard-liners, meanwhile, have launched a series of violent attacks on minority Muslim sects in the country and closed down churches in Java that do not have permits to operate. Despite these groups openly acting outside the law, in many cases police have done nothing to apprehend the attackers.
Neither has the central government scrutinized the regional sharia-style bylaws, which legal experts say are often in violation of the Constitution.
Speaking to a discussion on pluralism hosted by the Wahid Institute – a group set up to promote religious tolerance by former president Abudurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid – here Tuesday, institute executive director Ahmad Suaedy said Indonesia was just a step away from turning into an Islamic state.
The young Muslim intellectual said the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) had encouraged intolerance by issuing several controversial fatwa. This had inspired hard-line groups such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Mujahidin Assembly (MMI) to attack Muslim sects and those of other faiths, he 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,” Suaedy said
Last year, the MUI issued fatwa banning pluralism, liberalism and secularism. It also branded the Muslim-offshoot Ahmadiyah sect heretical because the group recognizes another prophet after Muhammad. Liberal Islam and Ahmadiyah centers around the country were later attack by hard-line vigilante groups.
Muhammad Husein, the executive director of the Fahmina Institute in Cirebon said the edicts went against the spirit of human rights laws and tarnished the image of Islam as a peace-loving religion.
“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,” he said.
Suaedy said the government should deal strictly with all religious groups that broke the law.
“It would be better if they, along with MUI, were disbanded,” he said.
Suaedy noted MUI was established by the New Order regime to maintain the religious status quo. However, it was presently acting more like a state-owned company, wielding considerable political influence and receiving public money from the government.
“(MUI) has raised huge funds from the issuance of halal labels for company products,” he said.
Neng Dara Affiah, of the Nadhlatul Ulama-affiliated women’s organization, Fatayat NU, said MUI’s fatwa against mixed marriages dealt a great blow to religious tolerance in the country.
Until firm action was taken against members of violent hard-line groups, the government was not properly protecting the rights of people from minority faiths, she said.
Speakers at the forum also highlighted a new book written by Gus Dur – Kala Fatwa Menjadi Penjara (When Fatwa Becomes a Prison).