Tue, 15 Jan 2002

MMI seminar on 'suariah' to ge ahead

A'an Suryana and Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Yogyakarta

Despite some objections from major Muslim organizations, the Indonesian Mujahiddin Council (MMI) will go ahead with its plan to hold a seminar on syariah, or Islamic law, in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.

The two-day seminar will be attended by 40 representatives from at least 18 Muslim organizations, Harun of the organizing committee said on Monday.

The seminar will discuss efforts to amend the Constitution to include syariah. Some delegates plan to lobby for the law to be implemented for all residents of the country regardless of religion or nationality, however, others will discuss how to apply it only to Muslim citizens.

The 30 million-strong Muhammadiyah has expressed concern but will still send two representatives to the meeting, while the largest Islamic organization, the 40 million strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has repeatedly voiced its objection to such a campaign and will not send a representative.

Reiterating that "Indonesia is a plural society", Muslim figures continued calling on all elements of the Muslim community on Monday to respect all differences, including religious and social ones, in order to promote harmony within society.

Noted Muslim scholar Ulil Absar Abdalla and the chairman of Justice Party (PK) Hidayat Nur Wahid asserted that no group in society has a right to impose their own will on others, saying that this was a violation of human rights and the principles of democracy.

The two Muslim figures made the remarks in response to MMI's plan to seriously discuss the inclusion of syariah in the Constitution.

Ulil said that he had no problem with the planned congress, saying that "they have the right to do it."

"However, Indonesia is a diverse country, and Muslims should respect the existence of other religious followers," he told The Jakarta Post.

Ulil called on MMI not force its own will on people and that the proposed syariah must not be included in the 1945 Constitution on grounds that such an amendment was "undemocratic".

"Since we are a diverse nation, any proposal from any groups should be discussed in a broader forum.

"The discussion needs consensus from others," said Ulil, the chairman of Institute for Human Resources Studies and Development (Lakpesdam NU), a research organization under the umbrella of the NU.

Nur Wahid, whose party represents progressive middle class Muslims, shared Ulil's view, saying that "amending the national Constitution could only be carried out by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the state's highest body."

"If they want to do so, they should channel the results of their seminar through the legislators," he said.

Nur Wahid regretted that Muslims, especially the small radical groups, had so far merely emphasized their fighting in artificial playing fields, but otherwise, they neglect to fight for the implementation of the more substantive Islamic laws.

The small hardline Muslim groups, including the MMI, have been so fighting for the inclusion of some parts of the Jakarta Chapter, which has been demanded by Muslim puritanical groups, and to insert a controversial rule, which would include prohibiting females from the presidency.

"Syariah has many dimensions, such as bringing justice to the fore, avoiding corruption, upholding the law, providing people with wealth and prosperity and bringing out God's mercy," he said.

Ulil said that syariah had been accommodated in many aspects of the country's life, including in the matters of marriage, alms and wealth inheritance.

Meanwhile, Nur Wahid confirmed that his party would not send any delegates to the planned MMI seminar.

He cited that organizational concerns, namely "the party's internal party session", would prevent them from sending delegates to the seminar.