Hizb ut Tahrir in Indonesia: Democracy Vs. Caliphat!

Islamist group blames democracy for Indonesia's woes
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta: August 13, 2007

Despite a national consensus that a democratic system of government is the best solution for Indonesia, an Islamist group says democracy is one of the main reasons why the country is lagging behind others.

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto said the situation had worsened since the economic crisis hit a number of Asian countries, including Indonesia, in the late 1990s.

"What has democracy brought us?" asked Ismail during a press conference at the International Caliphate Conference here Sunday.

"Democracy only brings us secular policies, like what's happening nowadays," he told reporters, while referring to secularism as being against sharia.

About 100,000 Muslims gathered Sunday at the Bung Karno sports stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, for the conference. It was a much bigger crowd than attended the group's first conference, also in Jakarta, in 2000, which was only attended by 5,000 people.

Ismail said the establishment of an Islamic caliphate would help solve this country's problems and increase development.

Official statistics show that currently 39 million Indonesians live in poverty and 22 million people are unemployed.

Millions of children also suffer from malnutrition and are unable to continue at school, Ismail added.

According to Ismail, the establishment of the caliphate would mark the application of sharia in all aspects of life and the reunification of Muslim countries all over the world.

The concept of implementing sharia in Indonesia is not new. During the constitutional debates of 1945, a clause on sharia was briefly incorporated into the constitution, but was then quickly dropped from the draft.

The clause -- "dengan kewajiban menjalankan syariat Islam bagi pemeluk-pemeluknya" (with the obligation to live according to Islamic law for Muslims) -- was an add-on to the first principle of Pancasila, which declares belief in "the one supreme God".

Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin, however, said the idea of caliphate (Khilafah in Arabic) concept in Indonesia would have to conform to the state ideology Pancasila.

"Khilafah shouldn't undermine the inclusivism and pluralism of the nation," Din said.

He added that non-muslims did not have to be afraid of the discourse on Khilafah as it was part of the democratic process.

"Khilafah is a good Islamic teaching. We shouldn't reject it," he said.

Both Ismail and Din also stated that Hizbut Tahrir was strongly against violence. They urged the international community to be fair in its treatment of Hizbut Tahrir as a Muslim group.

"Hizbut Tahrir doesn't support any (form of) radicalism, especially not terrorism," Din stated.

Hizbut Tahrir was founded in Baitul Maqdis, Palestine, in 1953. It is banned in several Arab and Asian countries, but Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia has grown rapidly in recent years since its arrival here in the early 1980s.

Ismail claimed that Hizbut Tahrir has about two million members in Indonesia.

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