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It isn't the real threat

Publication Date : 06-08-2014


 Indonesia has caught up with the rest of the world in responding to the threat following the declaration of the new Islamic State (IS) last month. The government realised the danger after it became clear that the self-declared caliphate had some support in the country.

Several Indonesians have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rebel organization fighting against the two conflict-ridden states. ISIS has since become the IS, and the Indonesian volunteers have openly called on Muslims here to join them in pledging allegiance to the new state.

Maintaining vigilance is important, especially since the IS uses violence to further its cause. In parts of Iraq where it controls, it has given ultimatums to Christians to convert to Islam, be killed or leave the country. The IS has destroyed the tomb of Jonah, a prophet recognised by Jews, Christians and Muslims, inside a mosque complex.

Any decent Muslim will tell you there is nothing Islamic about this group. It is essential however that Indonesia keeps the IS threat in perspective and proportional.

The idea of a caliphate is as old as Islam itself, and like it or not, this aspiration is found among some Muslims in Indonesia. Some political parties have made it their chief platform and won votes in general elections. Although never a majority, they win enough votes to have some political representation, including in the present coalition government.

In a free and democratic Indonesia, you cannot ban an ideology, even if you wanted to. The ban on Communism and Marxism, a legacy of the Soeharto regime, is almost irrelevant today since they are widely considered spent or dead ideologies. China and Vietnam, the two largest Asian communist states, are communist in name only.

But Islam as a political ideology is alive here and many adherents believe that Indonesia should become an Islamic state, or at least governed by sharia (Islamic laws). This puts them at odds with the majority, including most Muslims, who believe that Indonesia should remain a secular Pancasila state that respects all religions and guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens.

We welcome the public denunciation of the IS by the government and the two major Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. We agree that the government should monitor the activities of the returning volunteers from the Syrian/Iraqi conflicts and those who have openly declared their allegiance to this so-called caliphate.

It would be wrong however for Indonesia to ban the ideology, for it runs counter to the freedoms of thought and speech guaranteed by the Constitution. Besides, any attempt to ban ideology is a futile and wasteful exercise. Any excessive response to the IS threat only indicates our lack of self confidence in Indonesia.

Fight ideology with ideology. Fight fire with fire.

Education remains the best weapon to fight the IS ideology. Strong and credible law enforcement and better intelligence capabilities should be the weapons of choice in dealing with any violence the IS supporters may be planning in Indonesia.


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