As Indonesia is a country of moderate Muslims who respect differences of belief, research institute Charta Politika said that politicians seeking to impose strict interpretations of religion through law are actually masking their political interests.
“From our national independence until the beginnings of political reformation, we have never had the kinds of extreme Sharia laws that Tasikmalaya officials want to enforce,” Charta Politika analyst Arya Fernandes told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He was referring to a recent ordinance where the city of Tasikmalaya in West Java will soon require all Muslim women, residents and visitors alike, to wear veils.
However, post-reform decentralization and regional autonomy gave way for regions to enact their own set of rules. Arya said that this had led to the rise of regional political powers.
“We Indonesians are moderate Muslims. We respect differences in thought and belief, both within Islam and in other religions. So when politicians do these kinds of things, they are likely trying to gain political power,” he said.
“It is less about religion and more about political motives. They want to win elections. They want to gain votes by pandering to certain interests.”
Despite thinking that they had benefited from having religious laws imposed, Arya noted that such laws have no effect in creating the kind of society that these interest groups want.
“There is no correlation between imposing sharia law and improvements in social morality. Imposing sharia law does not reduce violence and does not deter anti-social or criminal behavior,” Arya said.
“Besides, there is no such thing as a single interpretation of religion, especially in Islam. Because of this, we can see that there are many different lines of thought within Islam. This is why any authority that seeks to impose its interpretation of religion is violating the civil rights of others.”
Therefore, Arya suggests that Tasikmalaya’s city regulation, the 2009 Ordinance on Islamic-based Values of Community Life should be brought to the Supreme Court for review in order to see whether the regulation is at odds with higher laws by the central government or the constitution. (png/iwa)