South East Asian Islam

Apr 15th, 2006, in News, by

Two leading Islamic intellectual figures discuss sharia, and the nature of Islam in south east Asia as compared to the middle eastern form. They raised interesting points but failed to logically carry through their arguments or look too deeply into the issue.

The rector of the State Islamic University in Jakarta, Professor Azyumardi Azra, warned political parties not to rely on the issue of Islamic sharia law as a vote-getter.

Azyumardi Azra said that Islamic parties would not be able to garner much support if they "sold" Islamic law at elections. The reason, he said, was that the idea of the application of sharia law had been on the "market" for a long time but was already a worn out, obsolete idea. What's more, he added, history had shown that although Indonesians were religiously observant people they were not attracted to the extreme ends of the religious spectrum.

Islamic parties that only sell sharia law are taking the Muslim community for fools, especially if later Islamic law is regarded as the only way to solve complex problems.

He said that since the 1990's Islam had undergone a reawakening in Indonesia but that this must not be dirtied by association with violence and hard attitudes.

The face of Islam in Indonesia, and south east Asia generally, is the face of a peaceful Islam.

Radical groups, he said, were very small and could not find a real place in south east Asian society.

Azyumardi Azra opined thus at a conference in Malaysia. Also speaking was the Director of the Moderate Islam Centre in Indonesia, Tarmizi Taher. This man's words were in a similar vein. He said that south east Asian Islam was substantially different from the middle eastern variety, it was more well-behaved (santun) and therefore it provided a great opportunity to show the world that Islam was basically a peaceful system and its teachings could be applied within a modern society.

Arab people often claim that they follow the true Islam whereas many among them are narrow-minded.


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