Nov 17, 2018 Last Updated 12:17 PM, Nov 15, 2018

Who is calling for Islamic Law?

Published: Jul 29, 2007


Dias Pradadimara and Burhaman Junedding

In mid-March this year, Philippines authorities arrested Agus Dwikarna for possession of C4 explosives. Ironically, Dwikarna's arrest has elevated the name of his Makassar-based Preparatory Committee for the Implementation of Islamic Law (Komite Persiapan Penegakan Syariat Islam or KPPSI) to national and even international attention, something he and his colleagues previously desperately tried to do but failed. Moreover, the arrest of Tamsil Linrung and Abdul Jamal Balfas - also from South Sulawesi - in the same incident has created an image of South Sulawesi as the hotbed of Islamic radicalism. Allegations in the western press that Agus Dwikarna is somehow connected with Al Qaeda strengthen this image. Is this image justified? Who is actually pushing for the implementation of Islamic Law in South Sulawesi? Islamic Law

KPPSI was formed after a series of meetings and conferences starting in 2000. Initially, in August 2000, the first Mujahidin (Arabic for 'Fighter of Jihad') congress was held in Yogyakarta. The congress aimed to 'integrate the aims and actions of all Mujahidin to implement Islamic Law'. Hundreds of activists from Islamic organisations and parties attended, along with scholars from all over Indonesia. The participants from South Sulawesi included Abdurahman A. Basalamah, former rector of the Indonesian Muslim University in Makassar, and Agus Dwikarna, who were each elected to positions on the Mujahidin Council.

In October 2000, a three-day Islamic Congress was held in Makassar, following on from an informal meeting at the Hotel Berlian in May that year. The congress was convened to discuss 'Special Autonomy for the Implementation of Islamic Law in South Sulawesi'. Jakarta politicians such as A. M. Fatwa attended the congress, which was opened by the Deputy Governor of South Sulawesi. Diverse groups attended, including student activists, quasi paramilitary groups from all over South Sulawesi, and romantics from the Kahar Muzakkar era, along with active participants from the Yogyakarta congress, like Habib Husain Al-Habsyi and Abubakar Baasyir. Hundreds more participated from all over South Sulawesi. Abdul Hadi Awang, a charismatic figure from the Malaysian opposition Islamic party PAS, also attended. The congress was tightly guarded, not by the police or the army, but by a paramilitary security team known as the Lasykar Jundullah (The Army of God), allegedly to prevent 'infiltration'. The Lasykar not only guarded the toilets, they even limited access to the musholla (small mosque/ praying space) during the supposedly open and public Friday noon prayers. No wonder some participants later professed that the tight security made them feel awkward and 'controlled'. After the first Makassar congress, several results were announced. A formal body, the KPPSI was formed and authorised to pursue the final goal of implementing Islamic Law (Syariat Islam) in South Sulawesi. The Lasykar Jundullah (not yet led by Agus Dwikarna) was to become an integrated part of the KPPSI. The KPPSI itself was comprised of two main bodies, the Majelis Syuro (a largely advisory council) and the Majelis Lajnah (the Executive Council). Members of Majelis Syuro were mostly university intellectuals and ulama (religious teachers) and included not only Achmad Ali and Abdurrahman Basalamah, but also Sanusi Baco, the chair of the local branch of the New Order-created Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars). The executive council was led by Abdul Aziz Kahar Muzakkar, one of the many sons of the legendary Kahar Muzakkar, who led a loosely organised rebellion in South Sulawesi in the 1950s. No wonder the movement found it hard to deflect accusations of 'nostalgia'.

More than a year later, a second Islamic Congress was held in Makassar in December 2001. The organisers of this congress claimed wider support both for their congress and hence for the struggle. The list of members of the various committees for the congress read like a (male) Who's Who of South Sulawesi.

The governor of South Sulawesi, chair of the local parliament, and mayor of Makassar were all members of the Advisory Committee for the second congress, as were M. Yusuf Kalla (a coordinating minister in the Megawati cabinet) and Tamsil Linrung, who was later arrested together with Agus Dwikarna in the Philippines. The Steering Committee included all the rectors of Makassar's major universities, as well as the chairpersons of the local Muhammadiyah and NU branches. It is not clear to what extent these notables shared KPPSI's ideology or political agendas. As at most public events in South Sulawesi, many of these identities appeared at the congress only long enough to present a speech during the time allotted to them. Some, like the governor, sent a representative; others did not bother to show up. Nonetheless, this list of notables presented a conservative image of the movement, as the congress was organised in accordance with the existing political scene in South Sulawesi.

The organiser claimed on several occasions that Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz, known to be sympathetic to Islamic militant groups, would personally open the congress. The dates for the congress itself were repeatedly changed to adjust to the tight schedule of the vice president.

The congress commenced on the same day that Hamzah Haz had a state visit to Makassar. Although the opening session was delayed for several hours, Haz failed to show up and instead sent M. Yusuf Kalla to open the congress. A disappointed crowd booed him. Hamzah Haz briefly visited the congress in a 'personal capacity' several hours later, but took a moderate stance towards the political agenda of KPPSI. As Fatwa had at the first congress, Haz remained non-committal about the inclusion of Islamic Law in the constitution. Meanwhile, Kalla emphasised the need to start from oneself and one's family in implementing Islamic Law, rather than asking the state to adopt it. This is popularly known as the 'cultural' as opposed to the 'legal' approach to Syariat Islam.

Haz' moderate position did not deter KPPSI from announcing a pre-prepared draft of a law which would grant special status to South Sulawesi and allow the local government to impose Islamic Law. The draft law was clearly inspired by similar legislation enacted in Aceh. However, this announcement was overshadowed by a bomb blast on the third day of the congress. The organisers accused a 'third party' of trying to disrupt the congress. Police, however, suspected the incident was a cheap self-publicity stunt. The second congress is now remembered primarily by this incident.

Who is in KPPSI

Since the 1970s, graduates from pesantren (Islamic schools) and regular schools from all over South Sulawesi have flocked to Makassar for higher education. They go to universities in the city, join Islamic student associations, and many become staunch supporters of the Suharto-era state party Golkar. Most students enroll at either the state-owned Hasanuddin University or the private Muslim University of Indonesia (UMI).

These educational processes have created a social class that is quite religious in character, yet without a group consciousness oriented around an ulama (in contrast to East Java). This social class, instead, enthusiastically embraces the New Order's image of modernity. It is from within this class that KPPSI draws most of its supporters.

KPPSI's support comes mostly from urban-based university-educated males. Most KPPSI activists and hardliners come from UMI, where Abdurrahman Basalamah was once rector. Agus Dwikarna attended UMI, but never graduated. KPPSI ideologues, who generally have more moderate stands, are mostly lecturers at the State Institute of Islam (IAIN) in Makassar. Chairs of KPPSI branches in the regions in the interior are mostly university graduates with engineering, medical, or social science degrees.

Although KPPSI uses an image of intellectualism, there has been very little open and intellectual debate on what Islamic Law means and implies. Most statements in local newspapers regarding Islamic Law have been dogmatic. The same phenomenon is evident at the national level. While there is wide support for the implementation of Islamic Law in general, there is sharp disagreement over what it means.

The implicit statement in this lack of debate is that every good Muslim should know what Syariat Islam means and implies, and thus, like KPPSI, should support its implementation whole-heartedly. Hence there is little need for them to explain what they mean by it, or for others, they assume, to ask them what it means.

KPPSI also has a close connection with various anti-maksiat or anti-kejahatan ('anti-immorality' or 'anti-crime') groups. These are basically all-male vigilante/ paramilitary bands, usually armed with sticks and machetes. These groups have mushroomed in various regions in the interior areas of South Sulawesi since 1999, and the KPPSI's Lasykar Jundullah seems to have become an umbrella organisation for these bands.

A reading of the KPPSI and its activism over the last year or so gives us a picture of a male urban-based elite playing the image of religious intellectualism to mobilise support from youthful males in both the cities and rural areas of South Sulawesi. The question of Syariat Islam is likely to linger without being satisfactorily resolved for either its supporters, like KPPSI, or its antagonists. While the arrest of Agus Dwikarna has elevated the name of KPPSI, it has also hampered the movement. Those notables who previously openly supported KPPSI, when interviewed, have become more subdued in their comments. KPPSI itself is now busy trying to free Agus from jail, pushing its main agenda into the background.

This article is a part of a longer report of preliminary research on Islamic movements outside Java conducted by the Centre for Eastern Indonesian Studies, Universitas Hasanuddin (PusKIT UNHAS) in Makassar. The two authors are research associates at the centre and can be contacted via puskit@lycos.com

Inside Indonesia 72: Oct - Dec 2002

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