Tue, 15 Aug 2000

Voices against proposal on 'syariah' law heard

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Voices disagreeing with the proposal to include Islamic syariah law in the 1945 Constitution were heard throughout the country on Monday.

Many people warned of the danger of social segregation if it was passed.

The director of the Center for Islamic Studies at the Islamic University of Indonesia (UII) in Yogarkarta, Imam Syafiie, said a wide-scale backlash to the proposal was possible

He added that it could trigger conflict within Muslims themselves.

"Islamic organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, and Ahmadiyah have different views," Imam noted.

Imam said the country's founding fathers had anticipated such a conflict, and therefore they did not put syariah in the Constitution.

Sociologist Abdul Munir Mulkhan from the Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) Sunan Kalijaga also warned of serious consequences.

"Our founding fathers were wise. They didn't insert an obligation for Muslims to comply with Islamic law in the constitution despite the fact that the majority of the population were Muslims," Abdul noted.

He pointed out that it could also provoke non-Muslims to demand a similar clause.

"And this is obviously dangerous to national unity. Social segregation based on religious identity will sharpen," he said.

Abdul emphasized that the people were free to follow any religion or belief without limitation.

"All religions and faiths can live here," he said.

The United Development Party (PPP) and the Crescent Star Party factions are pushing for the inclusion of syariah in an amendment to Article 29 of the Constitution, despite resistance from major factions.

In Denpasar, Bali, several Hindu-based organizations in the predominantly Hindu province, staged a peaceful protest at the local council building.

"We reject any plan to include syariah in the Constitution, no matter how small or insignificant the amendment is," said executive director of the Institute of Dharma Strategic Studies (LKSD), I Wayan Jondra.

They also demanded that all Hindu Balinese legislators at the Assembly block the proposal.

"Don't just sit there and keep quiet. Let the people know your stand on this critical issue," I Wayan remarked.

In East Nusa Tenggara, where most of the population are Christian, a group of university students took to the streets in Kupang to deplore the plan. They threatened a separatist backlash if it was passed.

"If the syariah obligation is inserted, it means that we must prepare for self-determination," said protest leader Stefen Messakh.

The provincial council also reportedly sent a letter on Friday to Assembly Speaker Amien Rais protesting the issue. (44/yac/prb)