Aceh as the Base

Aug 3rd, 2006, in News, by

The long march of militant Islam through the institutions, on the university campuses of Aceh, with some fearing that Aceh may be the springboard for groups such as the PKS to dominate other areas.

Otto Syamsuddin Ishak explains to Radio Netherlands about the activities of radical Islamic groups such as the PKS, Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

Otto says that all the campuses in the capital, Banda Aceh, have been “taken over” by members of the PKS and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, including the universities of Syiah Kuala and IAIN Ar-Raniry. Both groups are newcomers to the political scene in Aceh, with Hizbut-Tahrir, an organisation that works for the restoration of an Islamic caliphate state, only arriving after the tsunami struck.

Their influence only extends to campus life, while in the local government, or in society at large, they struggle to find much support as of yet. Their main interest in “playing” in Aceh is to assist in the enforcing of sharia law there and deal with a supposed apostasy problem in west Aceh.

They are oriented towards international issues and play up on the Israel & Lebanon war and the Palestinian cause, while, in the past, showing little interest in the Indonesian military’s behaviour in Aceh itself. They work towards the strengthening of the sharia system at the legal level.

The two groups are participating in a re-Islamisation of Acehnese society. Islam in the past was associated with Acehnese identity to the point where those who left Islam could be considered no longer part of Aceh. But the re-Islamisation process now is putting Islam at the heart of the legal framework of the province as well as at the centre of people’s daily lives.

Islam in Aceh he says is becoming “vulgar” but not radical. The Acehnese are already radical in their view of certain forms of crime but traditionally not so radical in forming laws and regulations based in sharia. There is developing a split between the Islam of the Acehnese and the Islam that is brought to them by these groups from Jakarta. The Acehnese people ask why is it that only the little people are prosecuted and not big corruptors? Why is the Indonesian military in Aceh not subject to sharia? The wilayatul hisbah, the religious police, do not dare accost soldiers kissing their girlfriends on the beach, for example, and incomers from Jakarta such as the PKS activists do not care about such things.

He concludes by saying, somewhat ominously, that the PKS, et al intend to use Aceh as the base from which to re-Islamise the nation and see sharia law applied nationally, or at least in some other areas.

Meanwhile, on a related note, an interesting interview with Hafid Abbas, Director General for the Protection of Human Rights in Indonesia, and Tim Lindsey, an Indonesian law expert at Melbourne University, which deals with sharia in Aceh. Lindsey says:

This is an ultra conservative, isolated interpretation of Islamic norms that is linked into a revival of Acehnese identity. The Acehnese have been asking for this right to implement the Sharia system which is not just in courts, but in governance more broadly, since the 1940s and 1950s. So this is nothing new but the implementation is extraordinary. This is the single most dramatic and radical attempt to introduce an Islamic polity in south east Asia in the last couple of hundred years.

August 06

Article in the Scotsman, Indonesia bows to rule of the rod. Some quotes:

Aceh is undergoing a profound transformation that is likely to have considerable impact on the nature of Islam in Indonesia.

For centuries Indonesia has been known for the open-minded, sometimes freewheeling, interpretation of its dominant religion. That is changing as moderate Muslims find themselves under siege from more orthodox proponents, and as the moderates are hesitant to push back.

August 14

Reuters article, Ex-rebel leader slams Islamic law in Aceh. Malik Mahmud, the former leader of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in exile in Sweden says:

The imposition of Islamic sharia in Aceh has not been demanded by GAM and I think this is not what the Acehnese want.

…it is the first time that Islamic sharia is implemented in Aceh and people are arrested and lashed. This is not part of Islamic tradition in Aceh.


2 Comments on “Aceh as the Base”

  1. avatar O. Bule says:

    The Islamic extremists are not stupid. In Aceh they now have a perfect base of operations for attempts to radicalize Southeast Asian Islam. Of course they will use it for that purpose. The Universities are the normal place to begin organizing the intellectual young adults. They will also begin exploit the poor by using social relief organizations as a means of spreading their doctrines.

    O. Bule

  2. avatar Hassan says:

    you know, o.bule, I’m starting to think that you’re not a Muslim after all. you sure have an agenda that’s not like any Muslims.

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