Monday, June 09, 2008

Islamist parties try to be less Islamist

Ariel Heryanto, Victoria, Australia

Fear has prevailed in the lives of Indonesians for much too long. The reign of fear has affected both the state and ordinary people. Cognizant of its credential deficit in both Islamic politics and democracy, successive governments have felt compelled to demonstrate sympathetic gesture to the Muslim communities, sometimes stronger than actually believed.

To appreciate better the argument presented above, it is worth comparing the behaviors of the past and present governments with those of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid. With abundant Islam credentials in hand, never at any time did Wahid need to prove that he was pro-Islam. So much so that he could afford to demonstrate the opposite. Instead of calling for jihad against the enemies of Islam, Wahid did almost the extreme opposite.

Flamboyantly he displayed some of the best possible favors a Muslim leader could do for minority groups in a Muslim-majority nation. Not only did he restore the ethnic Chinese's civil right to celebrate the Chinese New Year, he even went as far as claiming to have some distant Chinese ancestry.

In contradiction to the repressive rules and regulations from the old regime, Wahid supported inter-religious marriage. He offered a public apology to the victims of the 1965 killings and their families, as well as to the people of East Timor for violence the previous government had committed.