The growing application of sharia based laws in the province of South Sulawesi, and elsewhere, is bound up in the role of a group called the Preparatory Committee for the Application of Islamic Laws.
The Komite Persiapan Penegakan Sya-riat Islam was formed during the South Sulawesi Muslim Community Congress six years ago. This Congress elected one Abdul Azis Kahar Muzakkar, who is a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) in Jakarta, as the head of the Committee. This man has a firebrand radical lineage, being the son of Kahar Muzakkar, a leader of the DI/TII (Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia), a movement in South Sulawesi which violently fought for an Islamic state in the 1950s.
The Committee was remarkably successful in a short time and within only one year it was able to set up representative offices in all of South Sulawesi's regencies. They held three congresses, whereupon it was decided to urge the parliament in south Sulawesi to begin the application of Islamic law in the province.
At their second congress in 2001, the Committee saw an opportunity to apply Islamic laws at the regency level through the means of the new law on regional autonomy passed by the national government in Jakarta. Led by Abdul Azis, this body also proposed a Bill on Special Autonomy for Islamic Law in South Sulawesi.
Islamic law is non-negotiable.
(Syariat Islam itu sudah harga mati.)
Abdul Azis was heard to opine.
6 of the 24 regencies in South Sulawesi adopted some sharia, namely the municipalities of Enrekang, Gowa, Takalar, Maros, Sinjai, and Bulukumba. The actual regulations deal with the obligation of paying zakat, or charity tax, requirement of Muslim women to cover their hair and maintain modesty in appearance, ability to read the Qur'an for students and budding newlyweds, and the prohibition of alcohol.
For Azis the measures were an only partial application of sharia law as they only extend to matters aimed at "encouraging/forcing good deeds and preventing immorality". Also, they still rely on the ordinary state legal code for punishment. He was unsatisfied with this state of affairs.
In Islamic law the punishments must be according to Islam.
(Kalau syariat Islam, hukumannya juga harus- menurut Islam.)
But in one village, Padang, in Bulukumba, the village head took the initiative himself and instituted caning punishments. So far caning has been done on three occasions: once for a man who had beaten a child, another for a man who had ill-treated a person in some uncertain manner, and once for a man who had sent a married woman a letter which aroused the displeasure of the woman's husband.
However it has not been all smooth sailing for Azis and the Committee. The police have taken an increasing interest in the work of the Committee with fully 8 out of 10 of those men suspected of involvement in a number of bombings in 2001-2002 in Makassar, the provincial capital, being members of the Committee or its paramilitary wing, Laskar Jundullah.
Laskar Jundullah was established in response to the massacre of about 200 Muslims at the Walisongo Islamic Boarding School, in Poso, central Sulawesi, in 2000. Agus Dwikarna, the commander of this militia, is also a Committee figure.
On March 13, 2002, Agus himself was arrested by Philippino police along with Jamal Balfas and Tamsil Linrung at Manila airport on charges of possessing explosives. Tamsil, an advisor to the Committee and a member of the House of Representatives from the Justice & Prosperity Party (PKS), was released a month later together with Jamal. Meanwhile, Agus is still being held in the Philippines.
At that time our organisation became associated with violence.
(Saat itu muncul citra, organisasi kami dekat dengan kekerasan.)
said the current Secretary General of the Committee Aswar Hasan.
The Committee has been trying to repair its image of late. Laskar Jundullah underwent a name-change, becoming the Islamic Youth Corps, still not very reassuring. The colour of their uniforms was changed from black to a more soothing white.
Another move was seen at the Third Muslim Community Congress in Bulukumba held last year. Bulukumba was chosen as a model area to demonstrate the application of Islamic laws to the hundreds of Congress participants. After Islamic laws were implemented in Bulukumba, crime went down by up to 80 percent, it was said. This region was also able to collect four to five times as much zakat (alms tax) than ordinary tax revenue. Congress participants headed back to their home regions to promote examples of regulations with Islamic overtones.
The Committee only operates in South Sulawesi. Elsewhere, such as in West Java, other groups such as the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), push for Islamic laws. Such efforts have met with some success in west Java with the following cities and regencies having implemented some sharia: Indramayu, Tasikmalaya, Garut, Tangerang, Cianjur, and Depok.
However in East Java, for example, the movement has met with virtually no success and militant groups such as the MMI and FPI (Islam Defenders Front) struggle to have much of an influence. This is likely due to the presence and strength of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in east Java. According to Ali Maschan Moesa, Chairman of the Regional NU Administrators for East Java, the NU feels that Indonesia's legal system has largely been finalized and that Islamic laws should only be implemented on a personal basis.