Essay, Research Paper: Islam In Indonesia


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Indonesia is a archipelago situated in South-East Asia and comprises of 13 600
islands which stretch for approximately 5000km. Islam was introduced to
Indonesia in the 14th century by Gujerati merchants from India. In 1478 a
coalition of Muslim princes attack the remains of the Hinduism Empire expunging
Hindu from the Indonesian empire. Islam has now become the dominant religion
with 87% of the population adhering to Islam, 7% are Christians while the
remainder are Buddhist, Catholic or Taoist. In recent years many conflicts have
arisen between Muslims, Christians and Indonesia ethnic Chinese population,
because of both religious and political differences. The clashes have been
severe and 1000’s of people from both religions have been murdered and beaten
and 100’s of Chinese women have been raped. Indonesia was one of the few
countries where Islam did not takeover purely by an invading military force. One
feature of Islam that appealed to Indonesian's is that it does not have a caste
system such as the system in the Hindu religion. Before Islam was introduced,
the king had the power to take a man's wife and land. The people of Indonesia
were told that in Allah’s eyes all men are made of the same clay. The Islam
found in Indonesia is influenced by Buddhist and Hindu practises which were
prevalent prior to Islam. This translates to the fact that of the 190 million
Muslims living in Indonesia only 5 to 10% adhere to a relatively purist form of
Islam as seen in Pakistan. 30% adhere to a Javanised version of Islam, while the
remainder consider themselves as only nominal Muslims. Although a Muslim
dominated population, its political and governing institutions are secular, and
have little to do with Islam. Indonesia's Muslim population does not control the
countries wealth. Previous governments have restricted Islam's influence by
limiting the number of Muslim political parties by often forcing them to join
together. It is now widely believed that the Muslim public have began to feel a
new Muslim consciousness and are seeking justice. The Muslims of Indonesia, like
all Muslims, believe that Allah is the one and only God and Muhammad is his
prophet. Muslims believe in many holy books, but that the Koran is the most
important book, recited to Muhammad over a period of 23 years. They believe that
there will be a judgement day when all people will rise from their graves and
stand trail for their lives. Muslims also believe that Allah has predestined
events, meaning that Allah has already chosen who will go to heaven and who will
go to hell. Muslims insist that all citizens must have equal rights. No
individual should ever be above the law, no matter how powerful, and no one
beneath the law, no matter how humble. Allah taught that it was impossible to
force people to believe what they do not wont too. Therefore people should be
allowed to have free minds and follow any faith they may wish to. To a Muslim,
the ideal society is one in which there is justice, peace, love and compassion.
Muslims believe that Allah owns the soul and he decides when an individual will
die. Therefore suicide and euthanasia is rejected in a Muslim society and
abortion is only allowed when the life of the mother is at stake. Birth control
is allowed as long as both parties consent. Islam is also completely against
people having sexual intercourse before they are married as well as anyone who
commits adultery. Islam also prohibits homosexuality believing that it is dirty
and unnatural The key values of Islam are faith, justice, forgiveness,
compassion, mercy, sincerity, truth, generosity, humility, tolerance, modesty,
chastity, patience, responsibility and courage. The behaviours that Islam abhors
are hypocrisy, cheating, backbiting, suspicion, lying, pride, envy, anger,
divisiveness, excess and extremism. Many of these ideas and values are forgotten
by many of Indonesia’s population. The Five Pillars of Faith influence a
Muslims life in Indonesia; this is because the pillars demonstrate their beliefs
in Islam. These pillars include; the recital of the creed, “There is no god
but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”, the Salat, or prayer, which must be
observed five times a day while facing the holy city of Mecca; The third pillar
is known as Zakat, the payment of alms to the poor and needy. Ramadan is a
period of fasting held during the ninth month of the year, it is a time when a
Muslim will refrain from eating, drinking or sexual intercourse between dawn and
dusk; the fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, if health and wealth permit a
Muslim must trek to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. A Muslim’s
life in Indonesia is affected by what is known as Sharia law. Sharia law is a
set of regulations, principles and values from which legislation is developed.
It is the detailed code of conduct or the canons comprising ways and modes of
worship, standards of morals and life, laws that allow and prescribe and that
judge between right and wrong. Sharia can be amended according to changing
social needs and this has occurred in Indonesia. Unlike other Muslim dominated
countries, Sharia does not control every aspect of the Indonesian legal system.
Property disputes are not settled under Sharia, neither are many other legal
disputes. Secular courts have been given authority over all religious courts
even at a district level. But Sharia does play a more significant role in
smaller, more isolated villages. The power of Sharia in Indonesia has been
tested. In 1952 a Christian male and a Muslim female petitioned the Jakarta
district court to authorise their marriage. The two were not allowed to be
married because it was forbid under Sharia. The court allowed them to be married
effectively meaning that state law held power over Sharia. Islam’s ‘rites of
passage’ also influence an Indonesians life. Rites of passage strongly
influence the names that Muslim children are given, commemoration, marriages and
funerals. Muslims believe that cremation is not allowed because the body will be
required when Allah resurrects people from their graves on the day of judgement.
In 1973 the Indonesian government introduced a marriage bill, which placed
strong restrictions on polygamy and permitted inter-religious mixed marriages.
These laws went against what is stated in the Koran and upset many Muslims and
the law regarding mixed marriages was removed. In the present Indonesian society
polygamy is regarded as morally reprehensible. Islamic banks emerged in
Indonesia in the 1960s and have since grown rapidly. There popularity among the
population is a response to the growing western influences, people wish to
reclaim the old values of Islam. In an Islamic banking system, interest cannot
be accepted on loans or given to money in saving accounts. In an Islamic bank, a
person can place money in a bank account. The bank uses this money to invest in
other business and then divides the profit between them and the client at a
predetermined rate. Interest was banned in the Koran because it was seen as the
exploitation of the economically weak by the strong and powerful. Indonesian
women are far more socially and politically advanced than women in almost all
other Less-Developed countries where Islam is the majority religion. Women in
Indonesia are not required or expected to wear the hijab, but most cover their
heads with a scarf. The men do not treat them as second-class citizens but men
and women are segregated in houses of worship. Women, such as Megawati
Sukarnoputri can hold very high positions in Indonesian society. Despite these
advances Indonesian women are still not allowed to vote in any elections.
Indonesia is currently in a state of turmoil, protest constantly break out into
full-scale riots and looting. The major social problem facing Indonesia
currently is the escalating violence. Political analysts, Frans Magnis-Suseno
said in Asia Week “Indonesia has a tradition of violence” and in the current
society this is becoming more evident. The trouble began to appear soon after
Indonesia's economy collapsed and the people were looking to find someone to
blame. They were led to believe that the Chinese minority who control much of
the wealth caused the problems. The indigenous people (pribumi) felt
discriminated against and in the post Suharto era they were more inclined to say
so. Because the majority of ethnic Chinese were of a different religion to the
majority, the violence developed into Muslim verses Christian conflicts and was
a demonstration of the distrust that exists towards other ethnic groups and
belief systems despite the presence of widely diverse groups that live in
Indonesia. Indonesian people from both cultures also began to protest against
the widespread corruption that is institutionalised in the Indonesian parliament
and governing bodies. After Suharto was re-elected unopposed the people took to
the street. They had enough of their government. These protests readily turn
into full-scale riots and Indonesia's people turned their anger to racial and
religious differences. People also wish to end the military’s role in
Indonesia’s government. This resulted in army officers such as General Wiranto
taking being given less prominent roles in the newly formed government.
Indonesia’s frustrations also boiled over onto the street because in June the
World Bank estimated that as many as 50 million people are not eating the
minimum amount of calories needed to stay healthy. This is because in less than
two months the price of rice doubled. It is also widely believed that the
violence in instigated and encouraged by people on the verge of power, including
members of the Indonesian army. Men who are well out of their teens have been
seen wearing school uniforms. Many army uniforms have gone missing and it is
suspected that the people wearing these have fired shots at students to prompt a
violent reaction from them and reduce their creditability. These people have
been exploiting Islam because Islam is supposed to respect other religions, not
burn their churches. Conflicts between religious groups have developed for many
other reasons. Many Muslim extremists are working to make Indonesia an Islamic
state. Many other Muslims and people from minority religions strongly oppose
this view. The newly elected president Abdurrahman Wahid is totally against
making Indonesia an Islamic state. He believes that his people should subscribe
to nationalism first and Islam second and has always tried to improve relations
between Christians and Muslims and between the Pribumi and ethnic Chinese. After
his election as president, many extremists held heated protests throughout the
archipelago. In Ambon the religions are almost evenly divided among the
populous. The two groups have been living harmoniously for many years and the
two groups have been working together in business and on civic projects. Yet,
recently the situation has changed. The most probable cause of the violence was
an argument between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim migrant. From this small
incident the violence spread and intensified. Mobs burned several businesses and
left Christian and Chinese shops intact. Barricades and signs such as, "You
are now entering Muslim territory", were erected and to travel to certain
areas a person must recite a prayer as a proof of religion. Leaders from both
sides have stated that they are only defending their respective communities. The
ethnic Chinese population who are living in Indonesia are among the wealthy
people of Indonesia. The Chinese are barred from the military and the civic
service. Ethnic Indonesian’s feel resentment towards them and have resorted to
beating, murdering and arson in an attempt to get rid of the ethnic Chinese so
the pribumi can take over their business and wealth. One of the strongest cases
to show Indonesia’s resentment towards ethnic Chinese occurred after a mayor
in Java blocked plans to build a school on an old Chinese cemetery. Mobs
ransacked the graveyard, dug up the corpses and stole the valuables that were
buried along side the dead and the coffins and marble headstones were stolen and
sold. At present Islam is being used as a vehicle for people to cause disruption
and further their own ambitions and gain more power. They are using the
uneducated and bigoted people in Indonesia’s society. The people of Indonesia,
from almost all religions, have forgotten the values that their respective
religions are meant to uphold. The chaos is caused by religion and many
religious leaders are doing little to stop and prevent the violence. Hostile
groups send out bands of vigilantes to roam the streets, beat people and then
flee to their respective churches or mosques. No matter what the violence and
protest are for; it is almost always tinged with a religious purpose.
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