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July 04 2001

A Muslim fundamentalist leader says the Indonesian government must enforce "shariah" (Islamic law) since Muslims form a majority in the country.

Speaking to some 600 participants in the June 17 national dialogue at the National Library Hall here, Muhammad Anwar Iman, an activist of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, said all Muslims must press for total enforcement of Islamic law.

"We must urge the government to immediately enforce shariah not just in parts of this land of Allah but countrywide and for all people, including non-Muslims, since Allah gave his teachings to all human beings," Iman said.

The Islamic teacher was one of two speakers at the national dialogue on "Total and Non-Violent Enforcement of Shariah."

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia is an Islamic fundamentalist group which supervises Islam Defenders´ Front and Laskar Jihad (Islamic war soldiers).

Iman asked Muslims to reject what he called "pseudo-Islamic teachings" since those teachings, he said, are harmful to Muslims themselves and run against the true teachings of Prophet Mohammad.

According to Iman, total implementation of Islam is possible only in a state administered according to Islamic law. He said, however, that implementing shariah will lead to resistance from non-Muslims, and even from some Muslims.

He recommended a "gradual and nonviolent" campaign to ask non-Muslims to accept Islamic law. The enforcement of Islamic law must not impact non-Muslims in areas of religious rituals, food, clothing, and marriage, he explained.

Iman said it is ironic that Indonesia is not an Islamic state when 87 percent of its 210 million population are Muslims, and the current president is an Islamic scholar.

He said that many Muslims fear Islamic law because of its strict imperative. But a Muslim must accept it because it comes from the Prophet, he added.

The Muslim leader also questioned the government´s prohibition of the Islamic penalty of "rajam," stoning a criminal to death, while it seemingly allows pornography to flourish.

On May 4 jihad commander Ja´far Umar Thalib, who enforced Islamic law in Maluku, was arrested and charged with violating national law by stoning to death a jihad member in Maluku for allegedly committing adultery.

Fathi Syamsuddin Ramadlan, the other dialogue speaker, told participants that Islamic law should not be implemented through the legislature because such is not written in the Koran.

Muslims, he said, should follow the example of Prophet Mohammad and avoid violence in their struggle to establish "Islamic sovereignty."

Ramadlan expressed his rejection of interreligious dialogue and dismissed it as "a Western capitalist idea." In his view "dialogue" is being used "to fight Islam and the Muslims," he said.

However, Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a Muslim scholar, told UCA News June 20 that he disagrees with the idea of enforcing Islamic law in Indonesia.

The secretary of the Indonesian Conference for Religion and Peace said there is no reason for Muslims to enforce Islamic law here because they form a majority in the country and do not face any threat.

People demanding that Islamic law be enacted are "very conservative," he said, noting that they are not progressive or broad-minded enough to interpret Islamic law "contextually."

"I respect their idea, but I don´t like them to force their will on others," Abdalla said.