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Indonesia grapples with Islamic law JAKARTA - Women in miniskirts gyrate in all-night discotheques, where designer drugs circulate as freely as alcohol. Friday, the Islamic sabbath, is a regular work day. Pork is widely available in restaurants and supermarkets. These and other violations of Islamic law - or sharia - are the norm in Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country, where secularism has long held sway in national legislation. Although some religious parties asked for sharia law to be included among a set of constitutional amendments adopted Saturday by lawmakers, the measure was dropped because of overwhelming opposition within the national legislature.
Yet voices calling for sharia are growing louder at the very time the United States is seeking to promote Indonesia as a bulwark against Islamic extremism and an ally in the war on terror. ``There is no God but Allah!'' chanted thousands of pro-sharia demonstrators outside Parliament this week. Women in headscarves waved banners saying ``We long for sharia!'' while pushing their babies in strollers. Boys wore T-shirts with photographs of Osama bin Laden. The crowds cheered wildly as Abu Bakar Bashir, a militant singled out by neighboring Singapore as the leader of an al-Qaida-linked terrorist network, entered Parliament to make his case for sharia to legislators.
``The U.S. government has evil intentions with regards to Islam because it is controlled by Jews,'' he told reporters on his way out. Voices like Bashir's remain in the minority in this nation of 220 million people - more than 80 percent of whom are Muslim. Yet Indonesia's tumultuous transition to democracy following the 1998 fall of ex-dictator Suharto is opening up politics to unknown possibilities - and the battle is on for the country's soul. ``This is one of the ways we can save this nation,'' said Rusjdi Hamka, chairman of the United Development Party's parliamentary faction, which supports sharia law. ``This is how we can rebuild the morale and character of the country.''
Attempts to make Indonesia an Islamic state are not new. Bloody battles were fought over the issue in the 1950s. During his 32-year reign, Suharto alternated between cracking down on Islamists and courting them for political ends. Even today, certain aspects of sharia are obligatory for Muslims, such as laws governing marriage. Yet sharia's more draconian features - the so-called ``hudud'' mandating hand amputation for thieves and stoning to death of adulterers - are not imposed here and are unpopular among the majority of Indonesians who practice a moderate form of Islam.




Posted in Religion @ 15 August 2002 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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