Growth of Islamic Law in Indonesia Doesn´t Please All Muslims

Hard-liners Want More, While Some Scholars Voice Opposition

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JAKARTA, Indonesia, MARCH 21, 2002 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Street parades greeted the first day of Islamic law in the Aceh region of Sumatra island.

That isn´t enough, however, for some hard-line Muslims who prefer to see Islamic law, or Shariah, imposed throughout Indonesia. Some fundamentalist Muslims hold that imposing Shariah is the only way to solve the economic and moral crisis in society.

But other Muslims aren´t so sure. «Some outspoken hard-line Muslims have turned the Shariah into an elixir to remedy the country´s current problems,» professor Azyumardi Azra, rector of the Jakarta State Institute for Islamic Studies, told the Vatican agency Fides.

The professor notes the Islamic revivalism that came in the wake of the Suharto regime in May 1998. Fundamentalists such as Islam Defenders Front (IDF) and Laskar Jihad often take law into their own hands. Raids in discothèques and nightclubs in Jakarta and other large cities by IDF members with no interference by police have become commonplace.

Efforts for Shariah implementation are mounting despite strong objection from leaders of the two main Muslim organizations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

Other Muslim scholars also have voiced concern. Saiful Muzani, a Ph.D. candidate from Ohio State University, said the effort to impose Shariah is against Indonesia democratic principles.

Non-Muslim religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations have also raised objections to attempts to insert the Shariah in the Constitution.

Pro-Shariah voices were heard loudly in Aceh when Islamic law came into force March 15. To mark the day, thousands of people in the country´s most predominantly Muslim province in northernmost Sumatra paraded though the streets of the capital, Banda Aceh, passing by a great billboard with the slogan «Shariah brings unity and improves people´s welfare.»

Other rallies were held in towns across the province. Governor Abdullah Putteh, who joined the Banda Aceh rally, said that the people of the region were grateful to the government for granting greater autonomy with permission to implement the Shariah.

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