The Second Version

09/09/10

Muslims & Me

Some readers may have noticed that I spent almost two months in Jakarta and surroundings. During that time, I have interacted with a number of Indonesian Muslims and all those interactions have been positive.

Not idyllic, of course, but well within the limits of normal human interactions with civil persons - even if I occasionally acted in culturally-insensitive ways. Like asking a couple of Muslims if they wanted lunch during Ramadan.

My impression is that most Indonesian Muslims only want to live according to their beliefs but feel no need to impose those on others, or to eliminate any source of offense (beer is on sale in nearly every shop of Jakarta and other cities and most supermarkets have also pork, albeit in a special, clearly marked, section).

Muslims there also seem not to have much interest in living under Sharia law (it is only applied in the Special Region of Aceh, which is not the best and coolest part of Indonesia): with 86% of Indonesians belonging to Islam, if even a rather small part of them wanted Sharia law, it would be in effect already. Although it must be said that a number of municipalities have adopted at least some aspects of Sharia - while the central government, typically, looked the other way. A more detailed discussion can be found here.

But if you don't believe in my observations and opinions, or if you have read in some book that things are different, I have a piece of evidence gathered one month ago.

The article is oviously in Indonesian, but the numbers are universal:in the 2009 elections, not one openly islamic party went above 6.9% of votes. All of them except one suffered loss of votes since 2004 - and that one is a tiny party with only 1,5%. The headline say "Islamic parties feel Threatened" - they fear that their share of votes will fall below the 5% for parliament seats.

For a finish, a couple of articles regarding Gus Dur, the first elected president after the Soeharto era, regarded as one of the father of the country and famous liberal Islamic leader.

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