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Democracy Indonesian Style

Voters Are Very Disappointed With This

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Aris Arif Mundayat :
On the morning of July 18, a Yogyakarta radio station broadcast a long lecture on the urgency of an Islamic caliphate. The speaker said democracy was not in line with Allah's way, but rather the product of Western politics that marginalized Islam and restricted Muslims' role in politics.
Political parties, as a product of democracy, have split Muslims and pitted them against each other, so they are dubbed assobiyah zalim (cruel primordial groups). At the end of the lecture, the speaker said: "Seize the power, go into politics in the name of Islam and establish khilafah [Islamic State]!"
More or less around that day, the 212 Alumni Association leaders stated that khilafah Islamiyah must be upright in 2024. Then, they denounced their losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto as a traitor for agreeing to reconcile with Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the reelected president. This boldness seems related to their feeling of success in gaining more than 68.65 million or 44.50 percent of the vote in the 2019 presidential race.
In the 1980s, the procaliphate movement promoted its aspiration through tarbiyah (education) as a moderation strategy to gain popular support, considering the fact that the New Order was tough against radical political Islam. At the same time, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) engaged with vertical mobility through state politics, while Muhammadiyah focused on education. The public spaces in rural and urban areas left vacant by the two mainstream Islamic organizations were filled by prokhilafah groups.
Within five years, they recruited cadres who were fresh university graduates. They then worked as teachers, lecturer assistants or research assistants in state institutions. Three to five years later, they obtained master and doctorate degrees, and secured important positions in the state apparatus with all the influential consequences.
Their preachers started to control mosques in kampungs and housing complexes in major cities. The Muslim-only property business, meanwhile, has bloomed since late 1990s.
Procaliphate thoughts occupy the public mind in a systematic way. They have been disseminated through various strategies that enable them to develop across social strata, ethnicities and cultures.
The Indonesian professor Vedi Hadiz of Melbourne University, Australia, notes that Islamic populism has the ability to build popular solidarity for political purposes. Compared with Ikhwanul Muslimin in Egypt and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, Islamic populism in Indonesia lacks control over state institutions, a strong economic base and the discipline of organization. Thanks to their strict discipline, Ikhwanul and AKP rose to power.
In my observation, the prokhilafah movement has silently secured important posts in various state institutions through its cadres. Although the state has detected them and tried to cut them off, they have grown in number and spread their influence clandestinely.
They have also developed various economic resources like plantations outside Java, sharia student dormitories and Arabized commodities.
However, on a macro basis, those achievements are incomparable with existing oligarchs, therefore, they rely on state resources. They are confident with their social capital and seem to consider the possibility of formalizing sharia within the unitary state of Indonesia as a transition before they finally remove Pancasila when gaining power.
Khilafahism is more complex than just an ideology like communism. It is a "faithological" phenomenon as it combines rational reasons and religious belief. To build radical fervor they created the strong slogan "Kafir [infidel], no! Islam, yes!!" to encourage followers. Understandably, the NU responded with a fatwa that bans the use of "kafir" to refer to believers of religions other than Islam.
The NU and Muhammadiyah leaders consider the concept of syura in the Quran to be a form of deliberative democracy, but this is not the case in khilafahism. Majelis Syura (consultation assembly) in khilafah consists of Allah's chosen clerics, while in democracy it consists of people's representatives.
President-elect Jokowi and vice president-elect Ma'ruf Amin to some extent represent nationalist, secular and religious traditionalists, with their votes largely coming from Javanese. The idea of power here has to be understood in the context of the culture they gained support from.
The late American anthropologist Benedict Anderson once noted that legitimacy is not something to worry about in the Javanese idea of power. For example, politicians are concerned more about horse-trading for strategic political positions in the state than people's welfare.
Voters are very disappointed with this, but again, legitimacy is not the question. Due to this, institutionalization of the opposition is difficult to materialize, as parties are involved in this horse-trading. As a result, there is no ideological distinction between political parties. Khilafahism finally takes the oppositional position outside the state.
The prodemocracy group considers the prokhilafah movement to be a totalitarian movement that intends to replace the modern state of Indonesia and Pancasila. Those aspiring for khilafah dream of a leader of the Quraysh ethnicity as Allah's chosen and historically proven one to implement Islamic law. For those who are prodemocracy, this is equivalent to Hitler's totalitarian fantasy with the superiority of the Aryan nation.
In his book Theory of Militant Democracy, Alexander Khrisner explains how democracy in the West is challenged by extreme populism. The assumption is that popular antidemocratic groups do exist, and their interests to participate are legitimate. It is therefore a challenging and uneasy question to consider how democracy should treat khilafahism, which is clearly a rejection of democracy.
So far, at least in Indonesia, khilafahism has been treated undemocratically, by use of an authoritarian security approach. This is a grave political miscalculation, as it confirms the prokhilafah narrative of the political marginalization of Islam.
Finally, democratic militancy needs a strategy to transform the contestation into deliberation to seek political meeting points between democracy and khilafah Islamiyah. Militant democrats also need to develop inclusive participation rights so as to break the narrative that Islam is marginalized.
This is what Antonio Gramsci calls "compromise equilibrium". Building political inclusion in a multicultural society like Indonesia is a must for the sake of a healthy democracy.
(Aris Arif Mundayat, the writer lectures in sociology at the school of social and political sciences at Sebelas Maret State University, Surakarta, Central Java; also writes to Jakarta Post)

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