Fundamentalism as a Political Movement


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Fundamentalism is not associated with a particular religion. It does exist in all religions, as said by Prof. Dr. Thomas Meyer (University of Dortmund, Germany) when he spoke about characteristics of fundamentalism. This point of view was expressed in a public lecture and discussion titled “What is Fundamentalism?” held by the Liberal Islam Network in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in November 22nd 2011. The event was attended also by Ulil Abshar-Abdalla who was invited as the second speaker for the discussion.

During the discussion, Meyer mentioned about nine characters of fundamentalism: The First, fundamentalism is a phenomenon that exists in all religions. It is not associated with any particular religion. According to Mayer, fundamentalism is only one way to understand religion.

The Second, fundamentalism is more about political movement instead of a religious ideology. In many cases, the political nuances are very strong as impressed. In fact, those fundamentalists construct the idea of a community (ummah) as being in a constant oppression, by which they make that idea as the framework for their movement, through the imposition of a new political system. It is not even rare that we find them transformed or metamorphosed into a political party, so then they can participate in democratic elections. For Meyer, fundamentalism is actually part of modernity itself. It is a direct response to modernism. Fundamentalism is “a modern form of anti-modernism” said Meyer.

The third character of fundamentalism, according to Meyer, is that it was born as a response to the crisis. There is a supposition that the world today is in a chaotic situation economically, politically, and culturally. The crisis of leadership in every area of ​​life also encourages the birth of fundamentalism.

The Fourth, fundamentalism is marked by the principle of self superiority over the others. Here the politics of identity come into being. Fundamentalists have always felt themselves to overcome the others. They regard themselves as the truest, the virtuous, the straightest etc. The rests are then regarded as misguided, heretics and deviances.

The fifth strong character in fundamentalism as Mayer said is that they are anti- campaigns for gender equality and pluralism. This explains why all fundamentalist movements are always targeting the confinement of women. Almost all regulations that they enforce are always concerning on how women should be controlled. They are so ignorant and do not want to accept the idea that all humans are basically the same regardless of their sex and cultural background.

The sixth characteristic of fundamentalism, according to Meyer, is a resistant identity. It is then justifies why fundamentalist movements always lead to totalitarianism.

The seventh characteristic is that fundamentalism always recommends denial towards differences of identity and rejects the culture of democracy which respects diversity.

The Eighth character is that those fundamentalists are trapped in the feeling of insecurity. It is also commonly expressed as “mental block”; that they feel as there are outer forces that they thought would pulverize them. As the result, they are highly reactive and often aggressive to what they regard as “the others”.

When he spoke about democracy, Meyer explained that democracy is not a majority rule but the rule of law. It’s true that there are elections, but it does not mean that the elected ruler must always execute the mandate of the majority group. Democratic leaders have to move within the limits of law. Indeed, the rule of law is regarded as the most important element in democracy. This is actually the ninth characteristic of fundamentalists, that they reject the rule of law.

At his remark, Mayer said that “If you want to see that all people can worship their God freely, so the first thing to be established is the rule of law,” said Meyer. Meyer gave an example how fundamentalist forces in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany were so strong so that they established a democratic majoritarianism which is actually not even better than totalitarianism itself.

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, the second speaker, responded to Prof. Meyer’s lecture. According to Ulil, there are similarities between Islamic fundamentalism and communism and Marxism. Islamic fundamentalism is mainly marked by the ideological claims of comprehensiveness. Fundamentalism pursues that all things are going to be set and controlled.

It is interesting—according to Ulil—that in practice, the fundamentalist movement (especially Islam) is very obsessed to take control over the private domains, not the public sphere. The Campaigns that they raise so far are very much dominated by campaigns on issues related to private issues, such as morality, women’s clothing, liquor, adultery, and so on. They seem not too concerned with public affairs. However Prof. Meyer replied that actually those fundamentalists want to dominate public life in order to regulate private life.

Ulil also confirmed that the so-called fundamentalist movements are actually dynamic realities. The ideal dream of those fundamentalists does not often come into the reality of political life; when those fundamentalists plunge into politics, they can not avoid compromises as common in the world of practical politics. As a conclusion, fundamentalism—according to him—is constantly shifting and changing. Fundamentalism never stands still and/or becomes static.

(Translated by: Ahmad Shams Madyan)


During court proceedings for the prosecution of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir as a terrorist suspect, the accused stridently branded President Susilo Bambang-Yudoyono a kafir (infidel). For Ba’asyir, a country under un-Islamic rule or that does not apply the Islamic syariah law must indisputably be under the leadership of a kafir. In Cirebon, suicide bomber Muhammad Syarif targeted at police officers by using the same justification of takfir (pronouncing others as infidels) as cited by Ba’asyir. A state that fails to adopt the syariah law is equivalent to a kafir government and all state apparatus are also consequentially infidels. Interestingly, Ba’asyir also considers Muhammad Syarif as a kafir for setting off the bomb in the mosque where Muslims were preparing to observe the Friday congregational prayer. If Muhammad Syarif had survived the explosion, he would probably also name Ba’asyir an infidel for not endorsing his attack against non-believers who were about to perform their prayer.

According to a number of observers on terrorism and former terrorists, acts of terrorism targeting other Muslims are not entirely surprising. The takfiriyyah doctrine (judging others as infidels) is one of the theological foundations adhered to by terrorists. Their grand ambition is to establish an Islamic state. Any obstruction to the attainment of this goal becomes part of infidelism that must be fought against. They are convinced that Muslims who support a system other than the Islamic approach are proponents of infidelism, thus are also classified as kafirs.

This piece of writing intends to put forth several fundamental inaccuracies on this tradition of pronouncing others as kafirs which has led to rampant acts of violence. First, concerns the usage of the word ‘kafir’. Defining kafir as a person outside of Islam is in fact inconsistent with the actual meaning of the word ‘kafir’ itself. Kafir means to cover or deny, hence it refers to the covering or denying of God’s blessings. In English, the word ‘infidel’ is often used to translate kafir, when in fact a more appropriate translation is to cover. Hence, the reason why Christians and Jews are simple known as ahl kitab (people of the Book) during the times of the Prophet. The concept of infidel as understood by the West is actually an unfamiliar term in Islam’s traditional doctrine.

Such erroneous definition of kafir is manifested in subsequent implications of violence and even killings once a person or group is branded kafir. This evidently shows that the kafir label is used to excommunicate a person or group from a community, which in this case is the Muslim society. Kafir is equivalent to being a person outside of Islam and as such should be treated as an enemy. This is an erroneous perception that Muslims themselves continue to hold on to.

Second, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, Muhammad Syarif and cohorts have often intentionally ignored the key principles on how a person can be called a Muslim. These are indeed clear-cut principles embodied in the five pillars of Islam (arkaanul Islam), namely the declaration of faith, the five daily prayers, fasting, alms-giving and the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who can afford to do so. As long as a person observes these five core principles, he or she is therefore a Muslim. There has never been a valid doctrine in Islam that mentions the establishment of an Islamic state as one of the pillars of Islam.

Imam Al-Ghazali, dubbed Hujjatul Islam or the Proof of Islam was the author of the book Faishal al-Tafrîqah bayna al-Islam wa al-Zandaqah. According to Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, this book was written within the context of the widespread practice of singling out others as infidels among the Muslim society of the 11th century. It was then a time conducive for the emergence of new ideas which incited debate while at the same brought forth the tradition of naming others as kafirs which threatened the integrity of the Muslim society. The situation was probably not much different from Indonesia today where the ability to exercise the right to the freedom of opinion has also allowed room for the practice of branding others as infidels which impedes national unity and integrity. Al-Ghazali seeks to enlighten that pronouncing others to be outside of Islam is indeed not as simple. Al-Ghazali’s interpretation is that a believer is a person who believes in the Prophet and all his teachings. A zindiq (heretic) is a person who does not believe in the Prophet and his teachings.

The question then is what are the teachings of the Prophet? Every person will have his own interpretation which can be poles apart from each other’s way of thinking. To answer this question, al-Ghazali has formulated the concept of qãnūn al-ta’wîl (interpretation guidelines). Al-Ghazali presents five levels of existence: wujūd al-zãti (ontological-existential), wujūd al-khishshi (experiential), wujud al-khayali (conceptual based on previous experience), wujūd al-aqli (rational reasoning), and wujūd al-syibhi (metaphorical). Differences in interpretation arise due to varying points of departure of the interpreter. The interpretation of those at the level of wujūd al-syibhi shall undoubtedly be different from those at the wujūd al-zãti level. According to Ulil Abshar-Abdalla when speaking at a religious study gathering during the fasting month of Ramadhan, Al-Ghazali wanted to assert that the criteria of truth cannot be dictated by a single perspective. Differences of standpoint on a doctrine hinges on how a person views the doctrine, on whether he understands it in a denotative or metaphorical manner.

Third, if the purpose of Ba’asyir and his cohorts in denouncing others as infidels is to glorify Islam, then they are in fact doing a disservice to Islam. Islam which has spread far and wide has been confined only to Ba’asyir and like-minded people.

Fourth, concerns the erroneous perception on the implications of being labeled an infidel. Once a person is stamped kafir, it is as if violence meted out against him or even killing the person becomes permissible. This is indeed an extremely fatal mistake as there is no justification in Islam to support acts of violence or killing against other people outside of Islam. Such misguided understanding can damage relationships among fellow human beings.

The path to destruction shall become inevitable when increasingly more people perceive differences as reason for obscuring each other. There are many other facets that one can benefit from this reality of diversity, instead of using it as a passage towards destruction. Differences are the most significant means for cooperation and mutual learning. Without the existence of others, how can we be meaningful?



Ahmadiya and Freedom in Islam

Debate about Ahmadiya, a sect in Islam, now comes to a new arena because of oppression and violence for them. The anti-Ahmadiya campaigns support the marginalization of this marginal group. The argument that Ahmadiya as a party of Islam is very powerful. However, so many people have other perspective and accused Ahmadiyah as a deviant sect or non-muslim. The problem is that the argument Ahmadiyah as a deviant or non-muslim is used by some groups to violate, terror, and kill the member of Ahmadiya.

In Constitution, law, Human Rights, and common sense we can find clearly that there is no reason to violate anyone, particularly only in the name of religion or belief. But, the violence actors think that they don’t have duty to implement the Constitution, law, Human Rights, and common sense in their barbaric actions. They suggest that the religious teaching or argument is more and more powerful than any other arguments.

But, are they really have any religious, particularly in Islamic tradition, argument supporting their barbaric actions? Let’s take a look at the case of apostasy (riddah/murtad) as the biggest rebellion in religion. Apostasy (murtad) is more seriously than deviant or heresy. Deviant or heresy is a condition when someone rejected or has different opinion in one or some religious doctrines. But apostasy is a declaration to reject all of the doctrines.

There is not verse in the Qoran showing punishment consequencies for apostacy. The basic argument in the Qoran is to support the religious and belief freedom. It is very clear that in the verse la ikraha fi al-din the Qoran state that there is not compulsion in religion. The verse explains the religious freedom in some levels. Firstly, there is not compulsion for someone to engage in particular religion or leave it. In the beginning of Islamic formation, we can find that so many cases of “engage and leave” Islam. These are common phenomenon in every religion. If in the beginning Islam try to punish who leave the religion after they declare themselves as Muslim, maybe it is very difficult for Islam to get followers. And we found that in few year majority people in Middle-East, Africa, and Asia engaged this religion.

Secondly, the verse “There is no compulsion in religion” also explains that we have freedom to choose our groups in one religion. If in the religion level we have freedom to choose, so why we have burden to choose any groups in one religion? There is no compulsion in religion means that there is not compulsion in religious schools to engage or leave it.

Thirdly, the religious freedom verse also shows that Islam concern about freedom of thought or interpretation. Once more, if in the level of religion we have freedom to choose, we also have the same freedom in the level of thought or interpretation. The debate about Ahmadiya is debate at the level of thought or interpretation. In the Muslim tradition, there are doctrines about messiah. In the end of history Isa al-Masih (Jesus Christ) and Imam Mahdi will be come back to the earth. Many Muslims are still waiting for the Messiah, but the Ahmadiya group belief that the Messiah already came. They believe that Isa al-Masih and Imam Mahdi revealed in one body, i.e. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. If the first group is still waiting for, the second has met. All of these debates are in the level of thought and interpretation of Islamic doctrines. The Holy Book, Qoran, strictly concerns about the freedom in this kind of interpretation debate. The ensuring of freedom make Islam has a rich of the Qoran interpretation literatures. The process of interpretation is still happen until now. And we have good news that Indonesia has one of the famous of Qoran interpreter, Prof. Dr. Quraisy Shihab. He published a lot of book about the Qoran. One of his famous Qoran interpretation book is “Al-Mishbah.”

The absent of punishment for the apostate in the Qoran consistently was supported by hadit (the tradition of prophet). Off course some hadit talked the punishment for the apostate, but according to Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, all of the hadit are weak and have many problems in validity. There is no one hadit allowing punishment for the apostate merely because of the apostasy. In the Shahih Bukhari (one of the most authoritative book of hadit) explains about story of one Beduin who already engage Islam but came to the prophet and ask to cancel his shahadah (the declaration to engage Islam). Three times he came to prophet to propose same intention, and three times also the prophet ignored it. So, the Beduin leaved Madina, but the prophet still didn’t do anything and didn’t ask any punishment for the apostate.

The radicals use an experience in Islam history that the Caliphate Abu Bakr attacked Musailamah group and one weak hadit “man baddala diinahu faqtuluh” (kill everyone who changes his religion). They use this experience and hadit to support their action violate the apostates, including Ahmadiya. They also think that punishment for apostate is a consensus of the majority of ulemas (ijma’).

According to Mohammad Omar Farooq, since the classic Islam until now there is not any consensus among ulemas that the apostate has to be punished. The common interpretation among prominent ulemas about the war for Musailamah group was not merely that they leave or convert their religion, but only because their actions had implication to political rebellion.

Omar Farooq tells a moment in the era of Caliphate Umar Ibn Abd Azis. Some people declared to leave Islam. Maimun Ibn Mahram told this to Umar. Umar ask to give them freedom but they had to pay taxes as other people did in that country.

Sufyan Ats-Tsaury (Amirul Mukminin fi al-Hadits/The King of Muslim in Hadit) and Ibrahim al-Nakha’i (Tabi’in) agreed to refuse dead punishment for apostate. According to them, they always have change to come back to truth. So, the best thing that we can do is ask them persuasively. In the same boat, Syamsuddin al-Sarakhsi (an expert in Islamic law from Hanafi school of thought) said that apostasy is a very serious kind of sin, but it is only relation between man and God and its punishment must be postponed until the Judgment Day. Syeikh Mahmud Syaltut (The Former of Syaikh Akbar al-Azhar) has a same idea: apostasy is a sin. In the Qoran, according to Syaltut, punishment for the sinner is only in the hereafter. Syeikh Gamal al-Banna (younger brother of Hasan al-Banna/founder of Muslim Brotherhood) explicitly said that there is not punishment for apostasy. Freedom of thought is a foundation for Islam.

From common sense, Constitution, law, Human Rights, the Islamic doctrines, until ijma (the consensus of ulemas) all of them support the idea of religious freedom, freedom to change religion, freedom to join a group in one religion, freedom to interpret religions doctrines, and even freedom to become an atheist or agnostics. Belief or faith is man and God affairs. So, we can propose a question, what reason is used by people who violate and kill Muslim Ahmadi in many places in Indonesia? Off course, common sense and religion are not in the side of killers and terrorists. []

*Published by Koran Tempo in Bahasa Indonesia, April 15, 2011

Developing Our Religious Education

The Friedrich Neumann Foundation (FNF) held an international seminar on Religion and Education in Germany in March 2010. Several delegations from Russia, Belarusian, Slovenia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine attending the seminar proposed the inclusion of religion into school curricula. They argued that religion is an important part of human life and that it is impossible to talk about humanity without religion.

It was interesting that activists and thinkers, from atheist backgrounds in these countries, conveyed such opinions. The theory goes that even in countries in which religion does not play any significant role, religion should still be considered for inclusion in school curricula.

For a long time, Indonesia has included religion into school curricula, mostly in excessive proportion. The question is; what kind of religious education should be included in schools? This question is important because schools are not just missionary institutions, but are institutions for breeding par excellence and qualified human resources.

Therefore, religious education in academic institutions should meet scientific standards. Instead of learning about religion as doctrine, it would be better for students to learn about scientific research into religion. Thus students would acquire objective knowledge that would not merely be based on subjective knowledge and faith. For such curriculum teachers should be religious scholars from a range of religious backgrounds, instead of being limited to religious clerics.

Currently, religious education in Indonesian academic institutions is still perceived as part of a religious mission. Hence, religious teachers are required to be clerics, priests, reverends etc. Instead of teaching religion in academic institution many religious scholars have become mere religious observers. This flawed religious education system has narrowed the scope of religious education in schools.

The prevailing assumption is that religious education in schools should be limited to religious theology and doctrine. In fact, religious sciences have developed far beyond the borders of theology and doctrine. Social studies into the behavior of religious adherents are a kind of religious studies. Recently, remarkable interest concerning Islamic studies has emerged all around the globe. The most interesting topics relate not to Islamic doctrine, but concern the behavior of muslims and their perceptions of their faith. Great scholars like Samuel Huntington, Ernest Gellner, Max Weber etc have further provoked Islamic studies into a broader scope.

There are several interesting findings in these studies. Many of them have presented data and conclusions in opposition to the assumptions of Huntington and Weber about Islam. Both scholars argued that Islam is a unique entity that makes it difficult to accept Western values of democracy and civil liberties. However recent findings, which are based on empirical studies into Muslim behavior, indicate the contrary.

In such scientific approaches to religious studies, the doctrine is presented as the fact of faith. It is necessary to study the facts of faith rather than providing a true-false distinction to the doctrine which is the domain of religious leaders.

Such sociological studies of Islam are often regarded as marginal –and beyond consideration- within current religious studies in Indonesia. Consequently, religious academic institutions in Indonesia mostly breed missionaries instead of religious scholars or academics.

The biggest challenge to the scientific approach to religious study comes from the religious leaders themselves. They argue that religious education is solely the medium to preserve and spread faith. Therefore, children are taught religious doctrines from an early age, in order to adhere to their parents’ faith.

Obviously, many parents want their children to share the same faith. The issue is not whether parents have the rights of instilling certain beliefs in their children from an early age or not. The issue is whether a public academic institution has the right to direct students to believe in a particular belief or not. We have to distinguish between public or formal academic institutions and private informal ones. Formal academic institutions must apply scientific standards and therefore cannot make judgments over certain beliefs. Meanwhile, doctrinal religious education is provided in the informal family domain.

Religious education in Indonesia, both within the family and the school, used to be doctrinal. The scientific objective which must be the focus of public educational institution has been battered by the missionary objective. What the formal academic institution should do is teach students academic religious knowledge while parents should provide their children with the right to determine their own beliefs as they reached puberty. Parents may advice and motivate them, but it is the children who should give the final decision.

Hence, the expectation of breeding excellent individuals both in the matter of knowledge and faith will be soon fulfilled. The mature religious society will emerge from a new generation. Otherwise, it is generation of the fanatic believers who blindly claim the absolute and single truth who will emerge in the future.

This article is edited by Chris Hill


Discussion on Islam and Capitalism

by Saidiman and Malja Abror

First Day Discussion: Islam’s Response upon Capitalism
Teater Utan Kayu, Jakarta, 23 March 2009

The first discussion about “Islam and Capitalism”, 25 March 2009, analyzed the debates over relation between Islam and capitalism. M. Dawam Rahardjo (Director of Lembaga Studi Agama dan Filsafat) and Luthfi Assyaukanie (Chairman of Jaringan Islam Liberal) presented their papers before 70 participants of discussion.

Assyaukanie explained that although Muslim society today has been accepting democracy and human rights values, they have not yet accepted capitalism. It is easier for Muslim society to accept the concept of freedom in politic, rather than the concept of freedom in economy. Luthfi viewed several factors behind Muslim society’s antagonistic behavior against capitalism. First, bitter experience of colonialism that is regarded as the implementation of capitalistic economy. Second, materialistic behavior is regarded as part of capitalism and therefore dangerous for Islamic faith that emphasized on life after death.  Third, capitalism is assumed for endorsing hedonism, which is inappropriate according to the tradition of Muslim society. Fourth, capitalism is blamed for the social gap and economic breakdown among Muslim society. Furthermore, capitalism is regarded to be socially insensitive. Assyaukanie viewed these conclusions to be over simplification and misleading.

Based on Maxime Rodinson’s work Islam and Capitalism, Assyaukanie argued that the Muslim world is actually closer toward capitalism rather than socialism. Rodinson, by using Max Weber’s theory of sociology, found that for some extend the religious awareness aspects of Protestantism, as well as Islam, were influential upon the rise and development of capitalism.  Islam arrived among Arab society who practiced commercial capitalism therefore it is easy to find commercial terminologies in the Qur’an such as “Hal adullukum ala tijaratin….” (would you like me to tell you about trade… )

Rahardjo observed that although Islam was born in the context of capitalism, Islam also contribute criticism and suggestion upon it. Therefore, the relation between Islam and capitalism is not static one. Islam introduced two models of economy, financial and human economy: “Wajahidu fi sabili bi amwalikum wa anfusikum” (fight in my way by your wealth and soul). Rahardjo viewed that this principle is in line with capitalism, just as Harold-Domar’s theory of growth explained about two capitals in economy: financial capital and human labor. But socialism also emphasized on mode of production which relied on production force as well as social relation of production.

Rodinson observed that Islam developed from a traditional capitalist society. History recorded that Islam expanded across the world using the vehicle of capitalism and trade. That is why the Islamic expansion was 300 years slower than the expansion of Muslim sultanate’s political power. This argument rejects the thesis saying that Islam is propagated by sword and blood.

Rahardjo argued that the ethic of Islamic economy is in line with the norms of capitalist economy. The advancing ethic of work, wealth and property, trade, finance, industry and technology during the Islamic golden period proved that the capitalist norms had developed within the tradition of Islamic economy.

However, Rahardjo restricted the compatibility between Islam and capitalism only in the traditional or commercial capitalism.  Meanwhile, capitalism in the modern form such as state capitalism, financial capitalism, or monopoly capitalism requires explanation that is more careful. The compatibility between Islam and capitalism is very serious matter since both have rich variants. Which Islam and capitalism we are talking about?

In the end, Rahardjo asserted that the existence of capitalism and its variants is a necessity. There is no single state or society which is detached from this system, be it in traditional phase (commercial), political, or rational one (using Max Weber’s category). In Soviet Union and China, it is the failure of state capitalism instead of the socialist economy. Socialism has never collapsed since it actually has never emerged. In the end, capitalism is being a sort of natural law along with the development of its variants. 

Second Day Discussion: Islamic Economics and Capitalism
Teater Utan Kayu, Jakarta, 25 March 2009

On the second day, 25 March 2009, the discussion is more about the concrete issues, namely relation between Islamic economics and capitalism. About 80 participants attended this session. This session wanted to answer the question whether the global crisis is due to fundamental failure of capitalist system therefore it must be replaced by an alternative system or it is only due to peripheral mistake on its features. M. Ikhsan Modjo (alumnus of Monash University, Australia) and Bachtiar Firdaus (DPP PKS, alumnus of National University of Singapore) were the source persons of this topic.

Ikhsan Modjo from Institute of Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) assumed that the most appropriate theory to explain today’s global crisis is Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of creative destruction. The ongoing crisis of economy is an ordinary part of creative destruction process and a natural manifestation of the inherent nature of capitalism that tries to maximize benefit throughout innovations. 

If the ongoing creative destruction process is rejected, the crisis will become problematic.  Ikhsan viewed that the most reasonable solution is not to replace the capitalist system with Islamic economics, but rather to find a space that enables a synthesis between both. Several similarities and distinctions between both systems appeared during comparative observation on the conceptual and practical level. On conceptual level, Islamic economics is very similar to capitalism in terms of relying and endorsing market mechanism as the medium of allocation and distribution of economic resources. In terms of market mechanism, both systems require the existence of balanced power among market actors and the extinction of unfairness such as manipulation and cartel’s collusive behavior on prices. Unlike socialism, Islamic economic as well as capitalism respect the individual property rights. 

The most obvious distinction between Islamic economics and capitalism on the conceptual level is Islamic firm prohibition over five matters: usury (riba, additional value of money), prohibited commodities (haram), speculation (maysir), uncertainty (gharar), hoarding goods and profiteering (ihtikâr). Islamic economics prohibited the profit taking from money exchange and borrowing. One is allowed to take profit from the money only if he or she participates in the real business and shares the risk of financial loss. The objective behind the Islamic legal distinction between public good and services trade activity (real sector) and money trade activity (financial sector) is in order to endorse the development of real sector rather than financial one.

However, on practical level, Islamic economics also faces the same problem with capitalism in terms of implementation of its ideal concepts. The largest criticism against Islamic economic is the huge portion of purchase and selling based financing scheme (murâbahah), than any other schemes such as mudhârabah, musyârakah, salam, ijârah, or hiwâlah. The calculation of profit margin is similar to the interest in terms of giving a fixed income. The Islamic bank is regarded as seller whereas in practice it did not operated likewise.

Observing the fact that both systems have some defects on the practical level, both speakers agreed that the most appropriate solution is to find a synthesis instead of mutual negation. The academicians and actors of Islamic economics face a big challenge to create theory, policy recommendation, and economic institution that is applicable in the mixed practice of Islamic economic system and the conventional one. Many Islamic economic theories based on the assumption of free interest in a comprehensive Islamic setting. These theories and assumptions were very unrealistic and therefore were not able to be used to analyze the reality.

Wahid: A “Prophet” Welcomed Abroad

The Jakarta Post, November 28, 2008

While within Indonesia, Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid may be ridiculed by both his opponents and former trusted friends and aides, internationally he is still highly respected. At an international conference on religious issues held a few months ago in Melbourne, Australia, the former Indonesian president and former chairman of the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), received a glowing reception.

Many participants and speakers from notable universities around the world praised Wahid as the ideal model of a traditional religious leader supporting the spirit of tolerance and peace.

Prof. Muddathir Abdel-Rahim (International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Malaysia) said Wahid was a strong identity helping to combat the wrong perceptions about Islam.

Prof. Abdullah Saeed (The University of Melbourne) supported this, saying Wahid played a key role in contextualising the universal spirit of the Koran. Dr. Natalie Mobini Kesheh (Australian Baha’i Community) said the only Islamic leader in the world who continued to support the Baha’i community was Wahid.

Prof. James Haire (Charles Stuart University, New South Wales) congratulated the country’s fourth president for his role in protecting minority groups. Larry Marshall (Center for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Melbourne) described Wahid as an enlightened thinker with deep and insightful comments. Marshall previously did not believe Indonesia could produce an activist-thinker like Wahid in less than one hundred years. Wahid is no stranger to accolades from international academic circles. He has received awards in the past from international institutions for his human rights campaigning.

Wahid is facing a difficult phase of his life back home in Indonesia. After being eliminated from a key position in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and usurped by his former loyalist, Hasyim Muzadi, Wahid was ousted from the National Awakening Party (PKB), which he established shortly after the fall of Soeharto in 1998, by his nephew Muhaimin Iskandar.

His ideological enemies are almost competing to humiliate the virtually blind Muslim scholar. On one television talk show, Rizieq Shihab (leader of the Islamic Defender Front) ridiculed Wahid, saying he was “blind in eyes, blind in heart.”

The challenges did not solely come from his ideological and political enemies. Madina, a moderate Islamic magazine, did not list Wahid in the list of 25 peaceful Indonesian Muslim leaders. Even within the Indonesian moderate Islamic community, Wahid is often forgotten.

But the admiration shown for Wahid in Melbourne offers a ray of hope. Many worldwide believe Wahid can promote peace in the Islamic world, particularly Indonesia. Through his tireless activities and commitment to protecting minorities he has demonstrated the true spirit of Islam which honors pluralism. The position of Wahid as a politician and human rights activist is unique.

While most politicians remained silent when Ahamadiyah was attacked in several parts of the country, Wahid bravely defended their rights. Wahid said the followers of Ahmadiyah had the same rights as everybody else living in Indonesia and that the Constitution guarantees their safety.

What Wahid said in a press interview should remain a message of his good will for democracy, freedom and human rights for years to come: “As long as I live, I must defend the members of Ahmadiyah’s right to live, based on the Constitution.”

Maybe at this time, in this part of the world, Wahid is not supposed to flourish. His ideologies and actions are far beyond the narrowness of this time. Only the developed and enlightened societies can appreciate his struggle.

The Wahhabist Inferiority, 31 Maret 2008

In a discussion held in Paramadina Jakarta, K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) said that Wahhabi Muslims have a serious inferiority complex. They conceal and trade their inferior feeling with temperamental mentality, violent acts, and condemning others as kafir (infidel). They claimed as the owner of the ultimate truth, and that other groups who differed from them as infidels, dwellers of hell, and therefore must be fought and even annihilated.

Recently, the indicator of such inferiority complex laid in the practice of issuing fatwa that certain group is deviant, which leads to the practice of eviction, terror, and burning houses of the so-called deviant religious sect adherents. Of course, this militant group does not represent the majority of Indonesian Muslim, although they constantly declare to be representing them.

The ideology which developed by the Indonesian Islamists who fond of calling others as infidel and deviant is more or less similar with the Islamic ideology adopted by Saudi Arabia, namely Wahhabism. Many observers argued that almost every militant Islamic movement today is part of, or at least influenced by, Wahhabism. Where trouble is found, Wahhabism may thrive. Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida, which have been launching several terrors across the world for years, have officially adopted this ideology. Wahhabi extremism and terrorism continue to plague Indonesia, although its real supporters in this country are few in number.

Gus Dur regarded Wahhabi Muslims of having inferiority complex since the Wahhabi ideology is originated from the outskirts of Arabic Peninsula, namely Najd. Najd is a region that has never breeds any prominent Muslim leader and intellectual along the Islamic history. People of Najd were also the last community to embrace Islam. Besides, The most well known opponent of Prophet Muhammad, Musailamah al-Kazzab (Musailamah the great liar), was belonged to this region. At that time, Musailamah declared himself as the Prophet’s competitor and therefore challenged his popularity.

Besides Wahhabism, people of Najd have also established the Kharijites (Kharidjites, in Arabic Khawarij , meaning “those that seceded”) a militant ideology in the early period of Islam. Many observers assume that Wahhabism is just a new form of Khawarij ideology. The Kharijites made the concept of takfir — declaring a person to be kafir — of the main body of believers, and even murder whoever disagrees with them. This group had murdered Ali ibn Abi Thalib, cousin and son-in-law of prophet Muhammad, and attacked the Governor of Damascus, Amr bin Ash.

The Wahhabis became destructive power when Ibn Abd al-Wahhab formed an alliance with the house of Saud initiated by Muhammad Ibn al-Saud from Dir’iyyah. Al-Saud was a descendant of Banu Hanifah, a clan who were the main supporter of Musailamah al-Kadzzab. Since then, the Wahhabis launched constant intimidation and terror by condemning others to be Kafir and violently attacking them (non-Muslims, as well as traditional Sunnis, Shias throughout the rest of the world). This is the Wahhabi-Saudi axis, which continues to rule today. Until now, Saudi Arabia become the most sealed and illiberal country in the whole world.

Wahhabism has been regarded anti-knowledge and one of the sources of Muslims’ backwardness. They refuse to accept any innovation, such as technology and information network, for it is regarded as bid’ah. They refuse democracy. They keep their women at home. They forbid songs. They hate art. Having long beard is an obligation. Sufi and philosophical books, which were the Islamic intellectual heritage, are forbidden. Such social life is apparent within Afghanistan society under Taliban regime that adopted Wahabbi ideology.

Fueled by petrodollar, the Saudi authority has successfully exported their Wahabbi ideas to the world, not only Muslim countries, but also Europe and United States. Hamid Alghar, in Wahhabism: a Critical Essay, asserted that Wahhabism attained about 10% Muslim adherents in the world. Despite of the fact that young Muslims who prepared themselves as suicidal martyrs in Europe and the States were “western” educated, the Wahhabi ideology has moved them to conduct such terrors.

The dynasty of Saud and Wahhab who dominate both political and religious authority in Saudi Arabia were not pious family either. According to Stephen Sulaiman Schwartz, in The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror, the house of Saud fond of spending their wealth for gambling and women. No wonder there are about 4000 Saudi princesses today, which indicates that a king with hundreds of wife and mistress is not a mere myth in Saudi Arabia.

Schwartz asserted that the Saudi government’s support toward Wahhabism is a form of deception behind their immoral practices. Forms of neo-Wahhabi or Wahhabized ideology have been influencing some Indonesian Muslim who recently fond of declaring others who differed from them as deviant or infidel. In fact, their knowledge about Islam and Islamic history is not profound, and they were not even very religious people. I believe that violence, even conducted in the name of religion, is not a reflection of Muslim’s religiosity. Probably, it is only the matter of their inferiority complex.

Democracy a la Indonesian Islam

One of the monumental works of Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, illustrates a map of the international democratization up to the late of twentieth century. The map includes three waves of democratization and two reversals. Indonesia and the other third world countries, which are independent lately, fused in the second wave of democratization. Afterward Huntington inserts Indonesia as one of countries swapped by the second reversal wave of democratization. It means that Indonesia either is a non-democratic state or excluded from the issue of democratic state.

The evocative question is about the most valid parameter to determine whether a state is in the wave of democratization or in the authoritarianism or non-democratic domain. This question leads to various matters, particularly social-cultural ones: whether culture, religion, race, geographical site, level of education, level of economic welfare is determinant in the growth of consolidating democratic climate. Islamic culture has been perceived as unsound for the growth of democracy. Therefore, the option for political system in the Muslim world, according to some observer like Fareed Zakaria, is not democracy. This assumption based on various facts regarding the failure of consolidating liberal democracy in several Muslim countries. In many cases, instead of carrying the wind of change for Muslim society, democracy becomes instrument for the emergence of religious fundamentalists and social friction.

Eventually, Fareed Zakaria proposed the system of liberal autocracy as a transitional system before coming into democratic system: meaning, instead of rushing in being democratic state, Muslims world must go trough a long process in the liberal autocracy.

Result of the research on the Islamic political orientation in Indonesia held by PPIM UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, Freedom Institute (FI) and Liberal Islamic Network (JIL) in November 2004 is quite astonishing. Despite the election 2004 had been running well and became a strong raison d’être that Indonesia deserved to be the most democratic state among Muslim majority countries, this research indicates a brittle base of the process of democratization in Indonesia, which may be the representation of the Muslim world in general. Support on the Islamist agendas is quite shocking: 41.1% of the Indonesian Muslims opposed a woman becoming president; 55% backed stoning adulterers to death; 58% supported half share of girl inheritance; 41% backed the ban on bank’s interest; 39% supported polygamy; and 40% said thieves should have their hands hacked off in Indonesia.

Furthermore, Muslims intolerance upon the Christians is disturbing for the maintenance of democracy and civil liberty: 24.8% of Muslims were objecting the Christian teacher in public school; 40.8% was objecting the Christian’s religious service in their region, and 49.9% opposed churches in Muslim majority area.

One may say that the above phenomenon is in the level of attitude and it maybe different in the practical level. According to this research, 2-3% of Indonesian Muslims boycotted non-Islamic good or service, raid sin places or joined the demonstration against the Muslims’ miseries on the earth. Meanwhile, 15.9% of them supported Amrozi, Imam Samudera etc (Bali’s blast actors). The question is this: what is the explanation behind the democratic process of election and the defeat of Islamic parties by the nationalist (secular) parties in Indonesia? One may answer that the non-democratic Islamic group used democracy as a legitimating instrument to gain the power.

In addition, Muslims tend to vote for secular parties because Islamic parties are fragmented. If there is only one choice of Islamic party (campaigning the Islamist agendas), Muslims might united their votes. Nevertheless, why do not Islamist political powers amalgamate? This question reflects optimism for democracy in the Muslim world, that everywhere including the Muslim world, there is always the passion of interest for power struggle. That is the most fundamental base for democracy.

Since the beginning, doubt on the growth of democracy in the Muslim world appears in various debates. Several requirements such as historical, geographical, economical, cultural, social basis, religious requirement etc fulfilled by western democratic society is not actualized in the Muslim world. One of those requirements is good tradition of capitalism that becomes the medium of the growth of democracy since it supposes free competition that in the end delivers bourgeoisies, which is the pillar of democracy in Europe and USA. Barrington Moore explains this in a brief statement: “No bourgeois, no democracy.”

Another factor is that the Muslim world has never experienced a long resistance as endured by the West. The Western history was full of various clashes: between church and state, between kings and aristocrats, between Catholic and Protestant, the emergence of industrial revolution that indicates the tension between the aristocrat and bourgeois, clash among bourgeoisies, war between nations and so on. Those raise the recognition upon human individual possession and rights. Division of power and mechanism of power struggle that involves as many people as possible is due to the long process of interest struggle as mentioned above.

The important thing is that democracy is unique to each country and sometimes is hard to define. Decision of public policy by involving several members of the upper class society in Greece 2500 years ago was called as democracy. Providing public the right to vote in Germany in the beginning of 1930 that delivered ultra-dictator leaders, Hitler, was also the process of democracy. The two most democratic countries, USA and UK, used different system where USA used presidential system and UK used parliamentarian system, which are democratic. Greek people had never imagined that representation system and the involvement of various “common” people in the deciding public policy would be called as democratic today.

Difficulty to define democracy leads Fareed Zakaria to perceive democracy just as ‘a good government’. Since it is not sufficient to perceive democracy only in its procedural way (the election) because such democracy often delivers terrorist, racist, and fascist leaders or them who have the project to neglect constitution and withdraw individual rights. Democracy should not be perceived as merely liberal democracy, where there is election and there is rule of law, a separation of power, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. In fact, democracy and liberalism are often poles apart. It is relevant to perceive democracy as a good government: where there is good government, there is democracy. Hence, democracy becomes a non-rigid concept. Islam has its own concept of democracy, which might be different with other concept of democracy, including the Western world.

Liberal autocracy is a pessimist terms for the Muslim world, particularly Indonesia, to gain position in the international wave of democratization. Soeharto has toppled down, and there is no reason for going back to Soeharto’s era only to go toward the real democracy. Saiful Mujani’s terms of “Islamic democrat” represents the concept of democracy a la Islam, as far as it does not indicate democratic pessimism in the Muslim world. Here is democracy a la Islam, particularly Indonesia, where the election runs well in the midst of intolerance attitude of Muslims. Although Muslims cannot release their religious fanaticism, it does not matter when democratic life runs well.[]