Soft Islamization

Jan 13th, 2008, in News, by

The experts say soft Islam is sweeping the country, not hard Islam.

In a similar vein to Time’sVespa Girls” story of 2007 the Economist says Indonesia is a place where “Where ‘soft Islam’ is on the march” economist The story begins:

Is Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, undergoing creeping Islamisation?

Some examples of Islamic extremism, such as attacks on the Ahmadiyah sect, attacks on churches, the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls in Sulawesi in, etc., are given to show that there might be plenty to worry about.

The Islam Defenders’ Front (FPI) is said to be behind most of the trouble, while caliphate mongers Hizb-ut-Tahrir also figure, as does the fatwa prone Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI).

A 2006 survey, which might have been this one, or this one, or this one, or maybe even this one, showed that one one in ten Indonesians supported terrorist attacks like the 2002 Bali bombings if intended to “protect the faith”.

After Suharto fell governmental decentralization allowed politicians to get elected locally on Islamic platforms, and they then passed local laws with sharia overtones.

Greg Fealy
Greg Fealy.

But, Greg Fealy, said to be an Australian expert on Indonesian Islam, says these sharia laws have little effect, like in Tasikmalaya, where people are still engaged in a lot of unislamic behaviour:

there were more schoolgirls wearing the headscarf [in Tasikmalaya, when I re-visited] but just as much gambling, prostitution and drinking as before.

Even in Aceh, says Sidney Jones, sharia is on the back-foot, because public canings there caused public disgust (as perhaps also did the toilet sex case) and the religious police (Wilayatul Hisbah) are now much more tame.

Things are not looking so bad overall, says the Economist, and this can be best seen in the results of the last election, where “secular” parties (defined as Golkar, PDI-P, PD) easily beat “Islamic” parties (defined as PKB, PPP, PAN, PKS, PBB) (although they might want to look at youth trends and check their definition of Islamist vs secular parties).

While noisy fundamentalists such as Abu Bakar Baasyir get a lot of attention the article claims that liberal Muslims are quietly working to break the links between religious devotion and political Islam, bringing about the creation of an Islam Lunak, “soft Islam” movement.

Zulkieflimansyah of the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) says the party has abandoned any fiery rhetoric in the pragmatic interests of moving beyond its electoral ghetto of conservative Muslims.

Finally, the writer concludes

Indonesia is, overall, edging away from radical Islamism.

The trend is not irreversible, he says, and groups such as the MUI and the FPI may need to be reined in, but in general the future is bright. Read the full story at the Economist.

Indonesian version of this article – Islam Lunak.

11 Comments on “Soft Islamization”

  1. agam says:

    latest survey from Saiful Mujani’s LSI found that secular parties (PDIP, Golkar, PD) garnered 52% votes if election is conducted in October 2007. Secular parties with Islamic background, PKB and PAN garnered 8% and Islamist parties (PPP, PKS) 7%, while on the 2004 election 15%.
    Inline with Saiful’s findings, I believe that the Islamists cannot reached the sae level in 2004, and it is declining.
    in 2004, PKS garnered a skyrocketing 8% of the vote, from 2% in 1999, mostly from middle class who saw that PKS members showed strong antibribery signal in the parliaments. however, after 2004, many people has openly addressed their disappointment with PKS. they cannot campaign for clean governance, since PKS is more or less similar to other (corrupt) parties, permissive to the “amplop” culture in parliaments.
    so, the future is bright.

  2. Brett says:

    I skimmed the Economist article and didn’t find his arguments very convincing. Is “soft Islam” (whatever that is) or any other form of Islam “sweeping the country”, as he claims? The feeling I get is that non-religious issues (corruption, economy, traffic…) are key. Is that true?

  3. They say good news is no news, but this one is splendid. Good news, splendid news.

    So it appears to me that Indonesian muslims are still moderate muslims, who thankfully pose no threat. Sam Harris says that moderates are but chickened-out fundies that digested only the good bits of their respective religions, a notion that I cannot help but agree with, but what the hell. Let’s just hope that there would be fewer and fewer delusional bigots like ABB in the future.

    Common sense has won.

  4. Janma says:

    I’m worried about elections. what if all the moderates and minorities are too disillusioned to vote…. so GolPut will be the biggest winner… that leaves all the radicals who will surely vote…. isn’t that a rather dangerous probability?
    Even in the last election GolPut was the actual winner.

  5. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Mbak Janma,

    Jangan khawatir banget .. Radicals (overseas Islam) and Zionist instigators, we take care of. It is offensive to call us ‘moderate’ Muslims. We are either ‘Indonesian’ Muslims or ‘Javanese’ Muslims. Moderate Muslims can only be found in Acheh and Poso.

  6. Janma says:

    sorry no offense….. a moderate muslim for me is someone who understands others. doesn’t bang their head on the floor 5 times a day, so that they can swan around showing off their bruised foreheads, doesn’t bother about all the hoo haa.

  7. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Janma Says:

    January 14th, 2008 at 1:41 pm
    sorry no offense”¦.. a moderate muslim for me is someone who understands others. doesn’t bang their head on the floor 5 times a day, so that they can swan around showing off their bruised foreheads, doesn’t bother about all the hoo haa.

    ‘Radical’ and ‘Moderate’ Muslims are synonymous. Moderates are the planner, radicals the executors. Javanese Muslims are on the same league as other Hinduism and Buddhism.

    Okay, what you described above is ‘Javanese Muslims’. Many Bule friends complimented our smiling president as a ‘moderate Muslim’; yet put him on the same pedestral as the ‘moderate’ king of Saudi. The friendly grin coming from our president face is a Javanese smile, whereas the one from Saudi’s king is a deceitful smile.

  8. agam says:

    I just read another survey from LSI

    in fact, islamist has reach an alarming rate of 33%, vs. 57% of Indonesian muslim who subscribe to secular values. so, one third of your Indonesian friends could be silent followers of ABB.

    this is the summary:

    Nilai-nilai politik Islamis: Keyakinan tentang keharusan pengaturan
    kehidupan politik atas dasar keyakinan Islam tertentu yang hanya
    berlaku bagi pemeluk Islam dan bahkan hanya kelompok tertentu
    dalam Islam.
    “¢ Polisi harus mengawasi apakah perempuan dewasa memakai jilbab di ruang
    umum: Setuju (Islamis), tidak setuju (sekuler)
    “¢ Pemerintah harus menerapkan hukum potong tangan bagi pencuri: setuju
    (Islamis), tidak setuju (sekuler).
    “¢ Perempuan tidak boleh menjadi presiden: Setuju (Islamis), tidak setuju (sekuler)
    “¢ Polisi harus memastikan bahwa laki-laki dan perempuan yang berduaan di muka
    umum, muhrimnya atau bukan: setuju (Islamis), tidak setuju (sekuler)
    “¢ Pemerintah harus menghukum rajam bagi yang berzinah: Setuju (Islamis), tidak
    setuju (sekuler).
    “¢ Bunga bank harus dilarang pemerintah karena ia haram: setuju (Islamis), tidak
    setuju (sekuler)
    “¢ Pemilihan umum hanya untuk memilih wakil-wakil rakyat yang memperjuangkan
    ajaran Islam: Setuju (Islamis), tidak setuju (sekuler)
    Secara umum orientasi terhadap nilai-nilai politik sekuler ditemukan
    dalam masyarakat Muslim Indonesia pada umumnya (57%).
    “¢ Yang berorientasi pada nilai-nilai politik Islamis lebih kecil (33%), tapi
    jumlah ini cukup sihnifikan. Bila kekuatan ini terorganisasi dan aktif, ia
    akan menjadi kekuatan politik yang berarti.
    “¢ DUkungan atas tindakan Islamis radikal (Amrozi, Osama) dan organisasi Islamis (Hizbut Tahrir, Majelis Mujahidin)

  9. Jamis says: is one thing.

    The Taliban aint ever going to come to Indonesia. Wahabis want to ban music and cigarettes! can you imagine trying to convince Indonesian people to ban music and cigarettes…?

  10. Djoko says:

    they cannot campaign for clean governance, since PKS is more or less similar to other (corrupt) parties, permissive to the “amplop” culture in parliaments.
    so, the future is bright.

    I have actually found PKS to be a bit of a disappointment like that as well, not so much in that they are corrupt themselves (to this stage theyve still managed to stay very clean in comparison to other parties), but in not being able to make any inroads into fighting corruption itself on a broad scale (then again they only have 8% of the vote, what can you do?). What I find more depressing is precisely the kind of attitude conveyed above. Where people are willing to consider it ‘a bright future’ to be controlled by corrupt secular parties (hey they’re secular) in preference to any kind of Islamic party.

    Not to say that theres not some heavy Islamic parties out there, as well as ones which rely on fanatical masses. Its interesting how Mr. Mujani didnt group PKB as an Islamic party (though the economist correctly did) – you know the one that had members forming a Pasukan Berani Mati to defend Gus Dur against calls for him to step down when he was president? What is most interesting of all though, in the hysteria over Islamic parties, people seem to have forgotten a simple historical fact about Indonesia: the last dictatorship/authoritarian government Indonesia had was staunchly secular. In fact both authoritarian regimes which have existed in Indonesia’s history since Independence (Soekarno post 1959 and Soeharto) were secular and if anything strongly anti-Islamic.

    Certainly doesn’t discount the fact that Islamic parties are capable of turning into authoritarian regimes if they get into power, but I find it pure laziness to sit back and be content that everything is ok because ‘the secularists are in power’.

  11. agam says:

    Hi Djoko,
    I’m agree with your position. I voted PKS in 2004, in 1999 I voted PAN. Those two parties are relatively “cleaner” than other parties. I have several personal experience when some PKS MPs refused our “amplop” offerings when visited our site. I appreciate their anti bribery spirit.

    based on my own experience (after all, I have worked at the Indonesia Corruption Watch, so I hope I have the credential to make my own rank) on the ‘cleanliness’ of Indonesian parties: PKS could be in the first place. PAN slightly below, PKB, PD on the same level, and the three Orde Baru parties, PPP, Golkar, PDIP on the same level.

    however, if we looked at the LSI survey, I found it difficult to understand why I voted PKS in the first place, apart from their anti bribery stance. I found it more difficult why I voted a party whose officials openly embrace polygamous/polygynous marriage. perhaps I missed observing their ‘islamist’ ideological nature (look at the LSI survey). at that time, most of muslim middle class in Indonesia, at least 6% of the voters, 2% being PKS cadres, who voted PKS because their ideological backgrounds-Ikhwanul Muslimin-, the rest 6% were middle class voters who were impressed by the PKS clean stance in DPR/D.

    this is how PKS markets their party: a clean party with a clear anti bribery stance, and hiding their ‘islamist’ ideology in the closet.

    there is a love/hate relationship between PKS and muslim middle class. Impressed by their clean stance, but scarred away by their ‘islamist’ ideology.

    therefore, from economic point of view, there should be an optimal level for PKS in the DPR/D. A substantive vote to get their anti bribery stance heard, but insignificant enough to make Pancasila, not Jakarta Charter, our formal state ideology.

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