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Hesitant government a loophole for radicalism
Al Makin, Yogyakarta
The recent bombs delivered in packages disguised as books sent to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, an activist of liberal Islamic network (JIL), and other prominent figures last week cannot be explained in plain and simple language.
Nor can it be pinpointed what caused someone to intimidate the public with the acts of terror. Although the perpetrators may be arrested, the root cause of the problem remains unaddressed.
The answer to this issue is complex. After a series of assaults on minority groups, Ahmadiyah, in many parts of Indonesia, the Christian minority in Temangung, Central Java, and the Shi’ite group in Pasuruan, East Java, and apparently now the liberal news network is being harassed. Who is next?
Just get ready, in case your group becomes the next target. In fact, with their blind dogmatic jihad, the radical perpetrators will never rest in their pursuit of finding new enemies.
Indeed, the series of these atrocities unfolded systematically, even though the perpetrators are most likely not the same group or people. But why did the radicals boldly intimidate the Indonesian public?
Do not look only at their conservative and radical theological dogma, according to which the last Prophet Muhammad is uncompromised in truth and liberalism is poisonous. The victims were blamed. After all, the alibis are just unfounded.
Attention should be given to the background against which their actions are executed. The weak central government is perhaps the first chief factor.
True, since the reform period, Indonesia has never seen a strong ruling government from the era of BJ Habibie to the current period of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indonesians appear to learn well from the traumatic experiences under two authoritarian presidents —Sukarno and Soeharto.
They will not tolerate strong figures exercising excessive power, as in the case of Indonesian Soccer Association chairman Nurdin Halid. The nation is sensitive to any signs of dictatorship.
The wavering government, however, cannot effectively control both political and social development.
In response to many serious issues, the current SBY government has often been in limbo between many opposing views. It seemed that the government would like to please everyone. Satisfaction for all parties, unfortunately, is hard to achieve.
Ideally speaking, SBY, who was reelected with a landslide victory, should have high self-confidence to assume the presidency. In fact, SBY’s steps were compromised by many interests.
Look at the issue of the cabinet reshuffle, a hesitant consideration—back and forth and from side to side—based on political interests rather than the performance and achievement of the ministers.
Government’s hesitation is also visible in dealing with Ahmadiyah. The joint ministerial decree and Attorney General shows how the government opted for a compromise rather than taking decisive steps.
The decree is unable to fulfill the demands of both common reason and radical logic. Ahmadiyah religious practices are banned, whereas those who attack the “deviant” groups will be punished. The ambiguity lies in the fact that the decree can be interpreted as either banning or protecting the minority. However, both interpretations rest in weak ground.
The cautious government can also be interpreted as cowardly. The judicial review of the outdated 1965 blasphemy law also failed. Common sense and reason were easily defeated.
Recently, the taunt by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leaders to topple SBY remains unanswered. The group grossly manipulated the democratic euphoria in the Middle East as an Islamist movement. Of course, the Indonesian public does not want to buy this falsehood.
As the government is indecisive, the law is not enforced firmly. Corruption scandals involving some important figures in the government cannot be brought to justice. Worse still, some graft cases have become political commodities and bargaining chips.
To illustrate, we are not sure the degree to which accusing someone of corruption, as in the case of Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chiefs Bibit Samad Riyanto and Chandra Hamzah, is serious. It also appears that in certain high-profile crimes, such as the murder of human rights activist Munir, the masterminds remain at large and will be forgotten as a result of political compromises.
The hesitant government has left loopholes not only for radicals to be more outspoken, but also for the locals to run wild. Amid the euphoria of reform, Amien Rais proposed formation of federal states as an alternative of the unitary Republic of Indonesia. In fact, greater autonomy given to locals was a compromise that satisfied those demanding a federal system of government and those who were concerned about national unity.
However, local political elites have gone wild. They misused the broadened mandate at will, giving rise to corruption cases.
To win votes, the local politicians have also passed 90 local ordinances which clearly contradict the spirit of the Constitution.
The intellectual opposition is also weak at the local level, as intellectuals have mostly migrated to Jakarta for various reasons. Some of the bylaws impose forcefully sharia upon the people and discriminate against women.
The gubernatorial decrees on Ahmadiyah ban in East Java, West Java and Banten are the latest examples of the “small king” phenomenon.
We heard recently that President Yudhoyono and Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD promise to investigate to what extent these local elites ran counter the Constitution. However, their words have so far not materialized into actions.
In the absence of firm government, the local renegades and radicals will always find room to show off and the police will receive no political support to uphold the law.
The writer is a lecturer at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University.