“We are on the brink of a comprehensive Islamicization of Indonesia.” And it is happening there, as elsewhere, because the hardliners present themselves as the exponents of “pure Islam,” and face no large-scale challenge to their doing so — even from Abdurrahman Wahid, who shows up later in this piece.
“Sliding Towards Conservative Islam: Indonesia’s Secular State under Siege,” by JÃ¼rgen Kremb for Spiegel Online, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:
Indonesia is a nominally secular democracy. But the influence of conservative Islam is gaining in the world’s biggest Muslim country. A further step away from tolerance may be just around the corner.
It is Saturday afternoon in Kemang, the garish bar district in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. The young patrons partying at poolside on the roof deck of the trendy restaurant “Edge” enjoy a panoramic view of the entire southern part of the city. The only reminder that these partygoers are unwinding in the world’s largest Muslim country is the muezzin’s call to prayer at a nearby mosque.
Well-off models, successful trendsetters, designers and young filmmakers make up the guest list, and everyone is in high spirits, at least until Izabel Jahja, 30, speaks up. Wearing a tiny bikini, she raises her glass of red wine in a toast and says: “Let’s enjoy life, as long as our country continues to allow it.”
Jahja, the self-confident editor-in-chief of glossy magazine A-Plus, is dead serious. The Indonesian parliament has been debating a more stringent anti-pornography law for months. If the law is passed, it will ban a lot more than X-rated books and movies. In fact, it would spell the end of parties like this one, would make public kissing illegal and would mean prison time for anyone bold enough to wear “lascivious clothing.” Theater, the cinema, painting and music, would likewise be curtailed, just as they are today in many countries of the Middle East. “We are on the brink of a comprehensive Islamicization of Indonesia,” says Jahja.
For years, radical Islamists have taken advantage of the democracy gained after the 1998 ouster of former Indonesian dictator Suharto to question that very democracy, all in the name of piety. A cultural war has broken out between the supporters and opponents of religious fundamentalism, a struggle that could deeply change this country and its traditionally softer brand of Islam.
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