A woman shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ as demonstrators march through Jakarta in support of Sharia law (Reuters)
A rally for Sharia in Indonesia. From AP, with thanks to Nancy Block:
Thousands of white-clad, religious conservatives rallied and prayed in cities across Indonesia yesterday, demanding the imposition of traditional Islamic law in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Organisers said 20,000 supporters gathered in several cities, but police and witnesses said only about 2,000 marched in the capital, Jakarta, and a few hundred in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.
The rallies were part of a largely unsuccessful campaign to convince the country’s Muslim majority to embrace syariah [Sharia] or Islamic law.
Although more than 80 per cent of the country’s 210 million people are Muslim, only the war-torn province of Aceh has implemented the system on a small scale.
Syariah law is derived from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islamic tradition and the Quran. It is a wide-ranging system that regulates many aspects of public and personal life.
Women wearing headscarves and men dressed in long, white robes were among the demonstrators who marched through central Jakarta on Sunday. They carried banners reading, ‘Uphold Syariah’ and chanted ‘Allahu Akbar (God Is Great)’.
Some speakers urged supporters to vote only for candidates who support the syariah law in the April 5 parliamentary election. Others turned the event into a religious gathering, leading the crowd in chanting passages from the Quran.
‘If you are Muslim, you have to struggle to establish syariah law,’ said Mr Harimoekti, an activist with the conservative non-governmental organisation Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, or Indonesian Liberation, which helped to organise the rallies.
‘Under syariah law, we can prevent corruption and improve the daily lives of people,’ he said. ‘The world would be a beautiful place with syariah.’
In Surabaya, the crowd marched to local government offices calling for the removal of anyone without sufficient Islamic credentials.
‘This peaceful march is aimed at encouraging voters to take advantage of the election by choosing the best leaders,’ said Usman, another member of Hizbut Tahrir.
Indonesia’s founding fathers wrote a Constitution in 1945 for a secular government and religious tolerance between the Muslim majority and Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and other minorities.
Successive governments have fended off calls for Indonesia to become an Islamic state.
In 2002, lawmakers rejected calls to amend the Constitution to include syariah law. The country’s largest Muslim groups have also repeatedly opposed making it state policy.