Saturday, August 10, 2002

Militant Muslims Outside Parliament
The real threat over the issue [of sharia in Indonesia] came from the extra parliamentary movement rather than from within the parliament itself.

Among groups that turned out were the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI), which staged demonstrations in front of the parliament building. The public was made aware that there is still a wide spectrum of Muslim groups committed to building an Islamic state in Indonesia.

Research conducted by Dr Robert Hefner shows that the new Muslim middle class since 1980s onward have tended to concentrate on positions in the state bureaucracy and in state-sponsored business (see Robert Hefner, Islam and Nation in the Post Suharto Era, in The Politics of Post-Suharto Indonesia, edited by Adam Schwarz and Jonathan Paris).

The educated and urban profile of these new Muslim leaders made them more inclined to Middle East examples such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in their Islamic orientation, in contrast to Muslim scholars such as Dr Deliar Noer, Dr Nurcholis Madjid, Amien Rais, and Syafei Maarif, who are more inclined to Western culture because of their US based-education.

No wonder if a number of personalities from militant Muslim organizations such as Ja’far Umar Talib from Laskar Jihad tend to be more puritanical and fanatical in their understanding of the Islamic teachings than Madjid, Deliar Noer or Amien Rais.

As the paramilitary division of the Communication Forum of Followers of the Sunna and the Community of the Prophet (Forum Komunikasi Ahlu Sunnah wal-Jama’ah), the Laskar Jihad draw their inspiration from Wahabism, the official school of Saudi Arabia.

Wahibism takes a hard-line in defining who should be regarded as a believer of Islam, stating that no deviation from shariah is permitted. They also draw a firm distinction between the world of Islamic believers and that of unbelievers.

Wahabism as a phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism gained considerable success in Saudi Arabia from the strong support of the Ibnu Saud dynasty.

Thus, the puritanism of Wahabism goes hand in hand with the authoritarian regime of the Ibnu Saud dynasty.

Laskar Jihad’s close connection with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was crafted when Ja’far Umar Talib studied at the Maududi Islamic Institute in Pakistan.

With his Pakistan connections, Ja’far came in contact with the Pakistani Jama’at-I Islami, Afghan Mujahiddin Afganistan and Muslim Brotherhood.

All these Muslim organizations receive Saudi Arabian financial aid, channeled by Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League).

Rabitat is the principal organization used by Saudi Arabia in spreading Salafi-Wahabism propaganda, including in Indonesia.

Their principal local counterpart in Indonesia is Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (Islamic Propagation Council of Indonesia - DDI).

DDI was established by prominent leadera of the modernist Muslim political party Masyumi, which foundered politically because of its obsession with the idea of building an Islamic state in Indonesia.

The leader of FPI, Habib Rizieq Shihab, also took a similar path to that of Umar Talib.

Habib Rizeq studied at the King Muhammand Ibnu Saud University in Riyadh under the sponsorship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a forum for political and economic cooperation between Muslim countries established in 1962.

The fear arises that the puritanism and fanaticism of Wahabism as an Islamic School of thought and the militancy of Islamic organizations such as Laskar Jihad and FPI would tend to go hand in hand with those who support militarism.

This alarm bell was rung by former President Abdurrahman Wahid when he raised the possibility of religious-fascism, an unholy alliance between the military and militant Muslim politicians.