08/14/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Caliphate and Sharia are but “propaganda by a political elite”

by Mathias Hariyadi
After Sunni group ‘Hisbut Tahrir’ organises a pro-Caliphate pro-Sharia mega rally in Jakarta, a Muslim intellectual explains that such events “do not reflect the day-to-day problems most Indonesian Muslims have to deal with.” For some analysts ‘Hisbut Tahrir’ wants to become a political party to run in the next presidential elections.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – “Introducing the Sharia in Indonesia is not something the average citizen wants or understands. It is simply propaganda by a political elite,” this according to Prof Azyumardi Azra, a Muslim intellectual and former rector of the Islamic State University in South Jakarta, who spoke about a mass Islamic rally that was held on Sunday in Jakarta’s main stadium. 

The event, which was sponsored by a radical Sunni group called Hisbut Tahrir Indonesia, saw the participation of at least 80,000 people from around the world who met to express their support for a universal Caliphate and Sharia.

For Azyumardi such rallies do not reflect the day-to-day problems most Indonesian Muslims have to face. Most of the population is far from being concerned about whether Islamic law should be introduced or not.

For some analysts Sunday’s rally had another, more specific, goal. Although Hisbut Tahrir Indonesia leaders have not said anything about it, it appears they want to turn the movement into a political party in order to run in the 2009 presidential elections.

Hisbut Tahrir (Liberation Party) is a pan-Islamic movement founded in Jerusalem in 1953 with about a million followers around the world. It is banned in many Muslim countries but is tolerated in some Western countries like Denmark and the United Kingdom.

Despite claims that it is opposed to violence it is radical in nature. In Indonesia it has launched a campaign “against Zionism and US hegemony.”

Minorities in the world’s largest Muslim country consider Hisbut Tahrir a fundamentalist organisation whose real goal is to have Sharia fully implemented.

Controversial radical Muslim leader Abu Bakar Bashir was scheduled to speak at the rally, but he bowed out at the last moment. Some unconfirmed reports suggest the police “advised” him not to attend the meeting.

For Indonesian and US intelligence services he is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a South-East Asian terrorist network that is linked to al-Qaeda.

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